Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Update on Kim

Kim (the B) made it home today safely after her year in Iraq with her unit the 744th MP Battalion. She arrive home in time for the holidays thanks to the efforts of the Team at Ft Bragg and the persistence of the unit leadership.

To Kim and all members of the 744th MP Battalion in Bethlehem, PA - Welcome Home and thanks!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reading History

I found this account of the 98th Division Action in support of MNSTC-I in 2004-2005. Its interesting to see how Historians have begun to record our actions in that period as well as see the perspective of what we knew was a significant challenge...I think we can take a sense of pride in the effort.

In the late summer and fall of 2004, the first group of advisors drawn from a US Army unit (as opposed to advisors drawn from individual volunteers or selectees) began to arrive in Iraq. Most of them were from the 98th Division (Institutional Training) or DIVIT, nicknamed the “Iroquois Warriors.”154 These Army Reserve Soldiers were cadres of senior NCOs and officers who in peacetime ran training schools and individual training programs for USAR and National Guard Soldiers. Major General James Helmly, chief of the USAR in 2003 and 2004, had begun studying the idea of deploying elements of a DIVIT in the late fall of 2003. Initially, the USAR, the Army G3, and the 98th Division discussed creating an organization known as the Foreign Army-Training Assistance Command (FA-TRAC) to conduct the mission. This organization would deploy to Iraq and provide the permanent command and control structure for other units and Soldiers involved in the ISF training program. Other Soldiers would form the ASTs that would conduct the training of Iraqi soldiers and mentoring of Iraqi units.

The training of foreign forces was not the designated mission for USAR institutional training divisions, and the Army never implemented the FA-TRAC concept because the establishment of MNSTC-I made it unnecessary. But Helmly tried hard to convince leaders on his own staff as well as those in the Department of the Army that the USAR could conduct the mission.155 The Army National Guard had assumed the mission of providing trainers for the Afghan Army training program in the summer of 2003, and Helmly admitted some institutional rivalry affected the process.156 To move the USAR closer to the point where it could play a major role in training the ISF, in May 2004 Helmly told Major General Bruce E. Robinson, commanding general of the 98th Division, to begin preparing for the mission.

The USAR proposed the concept of employing its units to man much of the new MNSTC-I organization to Lieutenant General Petraeus in the Pentagon on 2 June 2004, just days before he took command in Iraq. Petraeus approved the concept for further study. After a mission analysis by the 98th’s staff, a more complete plan was briefed to Major General Helmly on 15 June, and then to the Army G3, Lieutenant General Richard Cody, who approved it on 18 June 2004. Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, the assistant division commander of the 98th Division, and others in the USAR and 98th Division understood the mission to involve the establishment of training academies and individual training programs for the NIA at several locations. They also understood that the 98th would deploy a task-organized piece of the division that would be attached to MNSTC-I for the mission.157 The leaders of the 98th Division, however, found that more specific information about the details of the program was hard to come by in the Pentagon, especially because the inauguration of MNSTC-I focused attention and resources elsewhere.

Without a complete understanding of their mission, senior members of the division left for Iraq hoping to begin preparations for the arrival of their Soldiers. Colonel Frank Cipolla, a commander for an engineer basic training brigade in the division, led a three-man team to Iraq a week later as the advance party. Sherlock and nine others joined them for a reconnaissance and analysis of the mission from mid-July to early August. During their trip, the 98th’s leaders discovered that MNSTC-I already had a command and control structure in place and needed individuals, not units, to man that structure. They also learned that the 98th’s mission would begin with training new recruits and units, but that the division’s Soldiers assigned to the ASTs would stay with their Iraqi units after they graduated and became operational. This was a surprise and represented a dramatic increase in the scope of the mission for the 98th because it expanded their role from simply preparing new soldiers during their initial training to advising them in combat.158

Between late 2004 and late 2005 approximately 900 Soldiers of the 98th Division served in MNSTC-I as members of the command’s staff, as school instructors, and as advisors to Iraqi units. Iroquois Soldiers manned 31 of the first 39 ASTs envisioned for the initial three divisions of the Iraqi Army, the others were manned by the Marines and some by Coalition nations.159 Before deploying, these Reservists attended stateside training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, to prepare for the mission. Many of them considered the training to be of limited value as the Army and the Atterbury trainers themselves were unfamiliar with the mission for which they were preparing the Iroquois Soldiers to perform. On arrival in Kuwait, they completed some theater-specific training before moving into Iraq; this training was more focused and useful.160 Once part of MNSTC-I, the members of the 98th Division worked through the growing pains of becoming comfortable with the enlarged scope of their mission. Some of them also endured open skepticism from Active Duty counterparts about their ability to do the advisory mission.161 The AST members met their new Iraqi recruits in basic training, trained with them to develop individual and unit skills, and then accompanied them after graduation on operational missions in 2005.

While they lacked the tactical experience of Soldiers from Active and National Guard combat units, Petraeus credited the Soldiers of the 98th Division with providing a much needed boost to MNSTC-I due to their expertise with building and operating the institutional training systems of a modern army. Although their experience was in training individual soldiers in a school setting, most Soldiers of the 98th Division made the transition to combat advisors successfully. They steadily developed tactical competence as they trained with their Iraqi units and then deployed with them into combat.162 For some in the division, it was obvious they had accepted a mission for which their previous experience had not prepared them, and a few had difficulty transitioning to the demands of advising units in combat. Still, the great majority adapted and felt they had shown how the USAR Soldier could meet the complex challenges posed by the Iraqi operational environment. Indeed, a large number of advisors from the 98th Division went into combat with their Iraqi units in major operations like AL FAJR in the city of Fallujah in November 2004.163 Command Sergeant Major Milt Newsome, who served in Iraq with the division in 2004–2005, expressed the pride felt by the Iroquois Warriors on their return, stating, “I’m very proud to be a member of the 98th Division because history will realize what the 98th Division and all those who supported us had to do, and did. . . . When all the ashes settle, you’ll see the silhouette of the 98th Division and you can say it was a job well done.164

As a result of the lessons learned in the fall of 2004, MNF-I and MNSTC-I began making major improvements to the advisor training and support programs. These changes took place outside the timeframe of this book, but they help highlight the challenges faced by the 98th Division and other Soldiers who were part of this initial wave of advisors. One of the first steps was to improve stateside mobilization training in early 2005. MNSTC-I also established the Phoenix Academy at Taji in early 2005 to provide a 10-day course conducted by members of the 98th Division focused on the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used by existing advisor teams. In the spring of 2005 the Coalition also changed its term for unit advisor teams from AST to Military Transition Teams (MiTT) to better reflect their mission. Finally, MNSTC-I established the Iraqi Assistance Group in April 2005 to provide better command, control, and logistical support to US advisors working with Iraqi units after they transitioned from training under MNSTC-I control to the operational control of units in the MNC-I, the Coalition’s tactical command.

Soldiers in the next wave of advisors, for which the USAR’s 80th DIVIT formed the core, benefited from these improvements. But they too faced new challenges. The first wave of advisors had linked up with and trained their Iraqi units when they were first formed; thus, they were able to develop personal relationships with their Iraqi counterparts before conducting operations. Many advisors in the next wave reported to Iraqi units already in combat. Their learning curve was steep and time to build cohesion and trust was almost nonexistent. The Army continued in 2005 to find the right mix of training, personnel, techniques, and processes for advising the ISF.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another Update on BB

This article released - the 744th MP Battalion is done with their mission and should be on their way home soon - as of December 18, 2008

Press Release
519th MP Battalion Transfers Authority with 744th MP Battalion

CAMP CROPPER, Iraq – Lt. Col. Enrique Guerra, 744th Military Police Battalion Commander, transferred authority to Lt. Col. Bradley Graul, 519th MP Battalion Commander, during a ceremony Tuesday at Camp Cropper, Iraq.

This ceremony marks the 744th MP Battalion’s second deployment to Iraq. From 2003 - 2004 the Allentown, Pa., based unit accomplished its first mission in Iraq and received the Meritorious Unit Citation and Iraq Campaign streamer. In addition to their two tours to Iraq, this unit has also deployed to Kosovo since Sept. 11, 2001.

Brig. Gen. Robert Kenyon, Task Force MP North Commander, stated, “The 744th MP Battalion was central towards our winning the counterinsurgency struggle, protecting our Coalition forces and the good people of Iraq.”

Under their command and control, Remembrance II Theater Interment Facility had a decrease of internal violence and a drop of its recidivism rate from over 8% to less than 0.5%.

The 519th MP Battalion has participated in every major military engagement since WWII and, on 16 separate occasions, deployed its units in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Brig. Gen. David Quantock, Task Force 134 Commander, Detention Operations, presided over the ceremony and witnessed Lt. Col. Bradley Graul and Command Sgt. Maj. John Williamson uncase the 519th MP Battalion colors.

Task Force 134 is responsible for all detainee operations in Iraq to ensure care and custody of detainees with dignity and respect until a safe and fair release can be accomplished in conjunction with the Government of Iraq.

This means that the B and her unit should be home soon....god speed

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Army Navy Game

Hey it is time for the 109th Army-Navy Game. It seemed that it was always scheduled for a Drill weekend when I was drilling, but that is due to the fact that there are only 2 non holiday period drill dates possible in December...but I digress The Army says:

The Black Knights of the United States Military Academy at West Point will host the Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy in the 109th edition of the historic Army/Navy Game, Dec. 6, in Philadelphia. Army brings a 3-8 record and a high-powered option running attack into the game against the 6-4 Midshipmen, who are scheduled to play Northern Illinois on Nov. 25, prior to the epic rivalry matchup.

Only 10 Football Bowl Series (formerly Division 1-A) rivalries have featured more games than the Army-Navy series. The series began when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie accepted a “challenge” from Naval Academy Midshipmen for a football game against the Cadets. That first contest was held on “The Plain” at West Point on Nov. 29, 1890. The more experienced Mids, who had been playing organized football since 1879, defeated the Cadets 24-0.

Eighty of the 108 Army-Navy games have been played within the Philadelphia city limits. With but seven exceptions, the Army-Navy classic has been played in Philadelphia annually since 1945. The 1983 game was played at the Rose Bowl, while the 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001 confrontations took place at Giants stadium. The city of Baltimore hosted the 2000 and 2007 contests.

The Army-Navy series has been tied on 13 occasions (five times since 1979). The latest tie came following Navy’s victory in 2004. The Mids’ win in 2005 gave Navy its first edge in the series since 1993. Until winning in 1980 to break a 37-37-6 stalemate, Navy had not led in the series standing since 1921, after just the 24th meeting between the academies.

Well then - I know that there are Navy Personnel that will read this - but I am predicting an Army win - 23-20....Go Army!

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)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Women in the Army

Beginning Oct. 20 through Nov. 14, the U.S. Army will honor the achievements of its women warriors as part of a three-week “Celebration of Women in the Army.” The commemoration coincides with the anniversary of the full integration of women into the Army for 30 years, with the disestablishment of the Women’s Army Corps by former President Jimmy Carter.

Throughout the U.S. Army's history, women soldiers have proven they are equal to any task...and when their country calls, they respond as U.S. Army Soldiers with distinction.

Today, women represent 13.5 percent of the active Army, 14.1 percent of the Army National Guard, and 23.7 percent of the Army Reserve.

There is no difference in ability of women soldiers in today’s army. Over the years I had the opportunity to serve with some great examples of soldiering – exhibited by women and men alike. I also have a daughter that chose to serve in the Army and I’m proud of her capabilities as a soldier as well. In fact, there are many that I should personally thank for their capabilities and service to country.

I thought it fitting to note the Army’s honor for these soldiers. Hopefully each is thanked for their contributions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Army Reserve RSC

I read with interest about the stand up of the 99th RSC (Regional Support Command). This unit is commanded by MG William “Bill” Monk III (a former boss of mine in the 78th Division). The article described the ceremony in which MG Monk assumes command responsibility for the new RSC - the first of four RSCs which were consolidated from 10 RRCs under Army Reserve transformation initiatives. I respect the capabilities of this General Officer and I’m sure he will do well in this assignment. He said

"Today marks a major milestone in the mission success of realigning the Army Reserve…With this ceremony we take another major step in making Army Reserve transformation a reality, and put another building block in place to transform our force from a Cold War strategic reserve to a well-trained operational force that compliments the Army across the full spectrum of capabilities.

Well the sentiment that the times are changing for the Reserve Component is not new. The fact that the First RSC is stood up replacing the largely administrative ARCOM and RRC is interesting.

The 99th RSC is focused on the new mission - base operations. Prior to the disestablishments of the RRCs, they had significant command and control and support missions for assigned units within their areas of operation and geo-boundaries. The RSC now has diminished, minimal C2, and instead is primarily responsible for facilities management of all Army Reserve facilities within the Northeast Region.

The mission of training soldiers falls more now on active duty soldiers in First Army and the resulting improvements in equipping, training and resources are a result of newly directed attention on the Operational Reserve Forces being rendered. Its unfortunate that many of the RRCs never were credited with getting the force as far as they did with little in the way of support and resources…. Now we have a better rounded reserve and active force structure.

On a totally un-related note – received an E-Mail from another former Boss today – seems he is getting promoted to Brigadier General and he invited me to his ceremony. If I liked the guy or thought he was totally honest with me when we were associated, I’d mention his name…but he probably did me the favor of ending any hope of promotion with an unexplained performance plan ding which eventually gave me the push to leave the Reserves. We’ll just leave it there for now.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

MNSTC-I Life is different

Got a letter from a fellow soldier and Friend – “Sully” who remained in the Reserves and has subsequently been redeployed to Iraq. He sent me a note the other day with an update on the changes in Iraq and MNSTC-I sine we first arrived there in September 2004.

Hey Stan,

Talking about you yesterday so had to write. One of my teams found a few conex's full of electrical equipment, new construction stuff, so I contacted the local 20th Engineer Brigade, a fairly massive unit which is the MiTT for the Iraqi Engineers, and sent an email to their commander to find out if any of his Battalions could use the stuff before it gets destroyed. Turns out its Duke DeLuca!

Duke was the J-7 at MNSTC-I in 2004-2005 and a spectacular team builder. He is now the Commander of the 20th Engineer Brigade.

Sully discusses greetings from Duke and some details of events in MNSTC-I then goes on to say

I'm commanding a Task Force which consists entirely of 100 US Airforce personnel who go FOB to FOB cleaning up excess material, vehicles, supplies, weapons, and whatnot. It is simple command but pays two college tuitions, plus I'm at my leisure to travel as I wish, but only by air! Quite a different tour than our last.

Our last tour we traveled by unarmored SUV to start then gradually received armored HUMMVs. Sully and I were very well traveled in country due to our assignments. About MNSTC-I

Did you know MNSTC-I now has 15 general officers!!! Phoenix base is one of only two bases in the Green Zone by year's end (plus the new Embassy Complex) and has its own housing, mess hall, and every building is 2 stories plus! Hardly recognizable. The Phoenix base actually extends to include the liberty pool in its compound! Our old housing is all gone. The green zone should be no more by early next year. Life sure is different. Take care.

Yes life is different – We had 3 Generals in MNSTC-I when we were there. One being LTG Petreaus at the time now there are 15 billets…wow!! The Green Zone was pretty extensive and definitely rustic as compared to accommodations at Victory Base. We were the outpost in the middle of Baghdad at the time.

I have since retired after my return and a last assignment to Hurricane Katrina cleanup. I have a daughter over in Iraq now…I have taken a cheerleader/ armchair quarterback position now. In that light the note from Sully made me reflect that there are still thousands of individual contributions being made with little fanfare in Iraq and I’d thought I’d offer a glimpse into this one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

BB Update

Its been a while since I updated you on BB’s status. She is back in Iraq with her unit after her R&R. She called us recently to tell us that she has been promoted to Specialist 4 (E-4) rank. She is glad about the promotion, and very pleased with it all.

Spec 4, Speedy 4, and other terms provide some insight to the grade – as found in Wikopedia

In deference to the original rating of Specialist 4, the modern day rank of Specialist is also sometimes known as "SpecFour." Slang terms for the rank of Specialist include "E-4 Mafia," indicating a reference to the large number of soldiers of E-4 rank who see their roles as performing the "grunt work" in the army. The Mafia reference is derived from some Specialists who are in positions to do favors for other Army specialists, such as supply administration specialists, but sometimes do not show equal generosity to senior enlisted, officers, or privates. The rank of Specialist is sometimes called a "Sham Shield": E-4s are the most experienced of the lower ranks and have usually figured out how to "sham" out of details. A specialist is sometimes ironically called a "full bird private", a play on "full bird colonel." During the Vietnam era, a Specialist 5 would sometimes refer to himself as a "Private E-5" to indicate that his duties and privileges were not different from what they had been when he was a private.

So now Specialist BB is working the overnight shift Currently 0000hrs to 1400hrs so she doesn’t have much free time. She is settled into new accommodations and has made it her home away from home.

The Army has been good for her, she has matured tremendously but of course she still is my little girl .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Well I went and did it

I have to make an admission here…

My daughter is back from Iraq on R&R which in fact is nearing an end. She and her boyfriend both planned to have tattoos done during their time at home. I had always been thinking about doing those things that were taboo when serving – including getting a tattoo…well there were three tattoo virgins at the start of last week and there are none now…

I guess I can kiss that Father of the year award goodbye… heck, who was I kidding, I was never in the running anyway…lol. Yes, we each got a tattoo done that was pertinent in design to our own taste.

Many soldiers, sailors, marines, etc… over the years have gotten tattoos. Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts.

For the three of us I guess it represented a rite of passage…all now having spent time in Iraq and serving our country. We are wearing our marks proudly and will all remember the event of our first tattoo.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Retired soldier resource

I don't often plug a commercial source - but this one is worth having just for the questions on health care alone...

The Retired Military Personnel Handbook, now in its eighth year of publication, is specifically written for all military personnel, retirees and their families, and explains all aspects of retirement benefits and how to get them.

Topics include TRICARE Plus program A, the Federal LTC Insurance program, tax policies affecting retirement accounts, estate tax treatment and long-term care premiums, and new retirement lifestyle information, including how to evaluate continuing-care communities and nursing homes and many others.

The 2008 edition has the latest information on military retirement and is a good reference guide for those nearing retirement or already retired. The handbook still costs $10.95, plus shipping and handling, and is available for single or bulk orders at, or call the 24-hour toll-free order line at (888) 333-9335, or mail your order with payment (total $15.70) to: FEDweek, PO Box 5519, Glen Allen, VA 23058.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Veteran’s groups as Political voices

Recently I came across several articles on Ted Samply dealing with his recent campaign opposing John McCain. As I read further on about this veteran, I see that he is a decorated Vietnam Veteran that somehow has lost connection with a purely veteran’s advocate roll he purports and has become a veteran’s profiteer.
Ted Lane Sampley has been the publisher and writer of the internet-based The U.S. Veteran Dispatch since 1986 and It seems that he is or was a vice-president for Rolling Thunder. Sampley co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, now described as "part of the editorial division of the on line US Veteran Dispatch newspaper", with Mike Benge (Michael D. Benge) and Jerry Kiley 9 (Gerard W. Kiley).
Ted is A former Green Beret with multiple Bronze Star awards from Vietnam, Sampley has the outward appearance of the stereotypical downtrodden veteran outfitted by the local Army surplus store. But he is in fact a savvy businessman who is forth- right about earning money off "the cause" and is a key figure in the MIA issue. Currently this guy is a participant in a site that is railing against John McCain

I appreciate an honest effort to work veteran issues, support veteran causes, but something about this guy doesn’t seem right… his methods and efforts are somewhat extreme. I know that we all are free to voice our opinions, but don’t do so on the same stage with veteran’s groups.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Arlington Follies

When its time for my carcass to be planted I hope there is no longer the circus of Army Brass versus the press at our National Cemetaries. I have been reading the saga at Arlington National Cemetery with Army employees being fired, the leadership imposing self serving or arbitrary rules… recently it came to be announced

A special U.S. Army committee has drafted a proposal that would allow reporters covering military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery to listen in using a microphone, according to a Voice of America report.
The proposal addresses an issue that came to a head in April when Arlington National Cemetery officials forced reporters covering a military funeral to stand at least 50 yards away from the services, even though the service member's family had agreed to let the media attend the funeral.

Frankly – I respect there is a need for dignity at a funeral Service (although I secretly hope for a hell of a party when I exit stage right) – I trust my family to make those decisions to include whether press attendance is allowable. I don’t want some bueauracrat in a distant office to dictate the setting and conditions for my last day above ground. Arlington’s leadership needs to get over their own sense of self appointed importance and provide a process that allows families to conduct their service as much as possible as the family desires. If that includes members of the press – duly invited – then let it be so.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

August in the eyes of an old Reserve Soldier

In the week leading up to it, I offer that 12 August is a special day for me… it occurs all too quick in my latter years that my birthday rolls around. So in celebration of this event this year I decided to post a little history of the day from a personal and Reserve Component perspective.

12 August 2005 – 3 years ago – I was wrapping up my year as a mobilized Reserve Soldier with the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq. A member of a joint, multi-national effort to transition the Iraqi Military to self sufficiency. I was indistinguishable from active Component soldiers and serve side by side with them to accomplish an extremely critical and difficult set of tasks in a combat zone under combat conditions. In this job myself and over 700 fellow 98th Division soldiers were thrown into all manner of jobs with minimal training and made good our presence in the fight. We lost some great soldiers in the effort but we were part of the initial change to Reserve versus Active component working relationship.

12 August 2004 (4 years ago) that I got called up to be mobilized to Iraq. I had gone out to lunch with my boss and a phone call awaited my return – telling me that I was to prepare for departure. Our organization had not been mobilized to any extent since World War II and the processes and procedures were in untested and dusty plans that no one really monitored. Given that however, I was in theater by mid September 2004 after a whirlwind of activity. Life as a Reserve soldier was about to take a radical change.

12 August 2003 - 5 years ago - I was a Battalion Commander for a QM training Battalion in the Army Reserve. The period was one of 1 weekend a month and a couple active duty training periods during the summer. We had essential no equipment and it was very rare for Reserve Soldiers to be deployed unless they were in a urgently needed skill. Our country had declared victory in OIF and we seemed to have quickly beaten the Iraqi machine. Saddam Hussein was missing and his sons were killed in a firefight with American forces the month before. I had just started working for my DA Civilian job at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ having finally left the Military Technician ranks.

12 August 1998 – 10 years ago – at this point I was a Major in the 78th Division and a Military technician for the unit. I was at that point the Brigade’s Comptroller having just left assignment as a Simulation’s Officer. We had an Active Duty Colonel assigned to the Reserve Brigade – a new thing for the reserves and usually the last assignment for Active component officers as it was not an assignment that aided promotion. The Brigade provided training to Guard and Reserve units and funding for such activities was always short.

12 August 1993 – 15 Years ago – a senior captain in the 1st Battalion, 315th Infantry as the Battalion S3. A Military Technician with the 6th Battalion, 68th Armor. Just completed Command and General Staff College as it was required for promotion to Major. An incredibly busy year with my reserve Battalion going to National Training Center this year. Little did I know that in 1995 the Army Reserve would vaporize Combat Arms units in the Army Reserve in a trade of functions with the National Guard. The experience left many of us that were committed combat arms soldiers in the Reserve feeling betrayed at the time.

12 August 1988 – 20 Years ago – just started my career as a military Technician with the 6th Bn, 68th Armor. One of only two Armor Battalions in the Army Reserve. Essentially the start of my Reserve Career as well as a company commander with the CSC and HHC companies. Interaction with the active component was limited to a couple exercises with I Corp as role players in large simulations exercises. The only was we were going to be mobilized was if the great Red Hoard came rolling through Fulda Gap.

12 August 1983 – 25 Years ago – a Second Lieutenant for over a year assigned on Active Duty to 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry at Ft. Hood. I had completed Armor Basic, Airborne and Air Assault School and was a lean mean fighting machine. In the next year I would be promoted and have the opportunity to go out on Training assistance teams to observe National Guard Armor Battalions training during their AT. My impressions as a full of himself Active component soldier were not flattering to the National Guard troops we observed. These National Guard units had M48A5 and M60 tanks while my active duty unit was in M1s. The difference in equipment, financial, training and readiness levels were huge. The Guard soldiers were a collection of rough hewn volunteers that enjoyed what they were doing, but were far from capable of being a credible partner with active component units.

I thought I’d share the “this date in History” as a reflection of the way things have changed for Active and Reserve component units. I am hopeful we do not return to the days of disparate resources for the Reserve Components born of tight financial times and cannibalization management driven at the highest levels of the Army.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Writers block or its too quiet

I have been rather delinquent these last two months in posting anything of interest here on the blog site. Its been rather uneventful during the summer for me with all the bike rides, summer pursuits and what not.

BB is planning her secret R&R trip home next month (I'm not supposed to know... she gave the secret to her brother "porous lips scooter" and after one beer he spilled the beans like a seasick cook.) We are looking forward to her stateside sojourn with glee abeit secretly. I guess I'll find out if she reads this blog shortly.
Maybe I'll have her take me to get my first tattoo when she's home...

Otherwise it has been little happenings on the reserve community front. Not much in the way of legislation to bitch about, causes to spurn discussion. Perhaps some of my readers can submit comments on topics worth exploring here. Also send any ideas for tattoos

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Old article about Wingnut and Stinky

Wingnut and Stinky were two soldiers assigned to the MNSTC-I J-7 convoy team that provided their services to the team doing missions throughout Iraq. This team and I spent a lot of time together going to virtually every corner of Iraq looking to put in place Iraqi military installations. I read this article when it was done by one of my fellow officers during our assignment to MNSTC-I. He was a published author before arriving in country and based on what I read, a hell of a writer - Bob Bateman.

I thought I'd share the article which reflects another person's observations of what a typical day in country was like for all of us... it is still fresh in my mind... but brings smiles in a silly kind of way when faced with the stress of civilian life

• April 25, 2005

Name: Maj. Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Riding with Wingnut and Stinky

“Whaddya see?! Whaddya SEE?!” shouted the driver of the HMMWV.

We were traveling at ‘best speed,’ which in this particular vehicle meant about 55 miles per hour. Not exactly a screaming top-end, but still about 5-10 mph faster than the majority of the cars around us. Ahead we could see traffic was at a standstill. On the highways of Iraq, for Americans, coming to a stop on the road can become permanent.

“Hey! Stinky! What do you SEE?!”

‘Stinky’ responds, “Looks like…looks like, yea, it’s a convoy or something. They’re stopping traffic.” The reply was barely audible. Shouted down through the gunner’s hatch in the roof of our gun-truck, it competed with the road noise of a fully-loaded HMMWV. Stinky’s head is a full nine feet above the roadway. He can see obstacles beyond what the driver can pick up from his seat at road level. Already we were slowing.

Speaking into the radio my driver checks behind us, “Wingnut, what do you see?” “Wingnut” is the gunner in the second gun-truck. He is in the Air Force.

“Nothing back here,” comes the reply over the hand-held.

Decision time.

Not just one decision, but a host of them, had to be made. In sequence. Fast.

Drive onto the median or push towards the center lane? Nudge that red car out of our way? Right or left? Force the car that has now reversed track and is heading towards us to the right or the left? Can he make it on the left? If we shove this next white car, will he be pinned against that truck beside him, or will he give way and create a hole for us to slip through? Doesn’t that guy hear us? Warning shot from the gunner’s M-4 or throw a rock? (The horns on HMMWVs are lame so sometimes drivers do not hear us coming up from behind. Stinky has a bag with small rocks up there on the roof for this purpose. We prefer not to shoot into the sky. What goes up, must come down after all.) Shit, that one was a wedding. Give them room. Give them that much. On and on. Another wedding caravan. Another rock thrown to get a black mini-van blocking us to move aside. Are they doing it on purpose? Are they running a ‘post’ on us for somebody else? Look left. Right. Rear. One thing overrides all. We must keep moving.

Our lead driver is aggressive. A few times I think about telling him to slow, to give these Iraqis all around us the chance to get out of our way, to stop if need be and let them make room. I think better of it.

The day before, a few miles from here, a friend of mine found himself in a similar situation. My friend is one of the best combat leaders I know, a soldier and a scholar. He is also one of the most intelligent, most humane and caring men that I know. He stopped his convoy. Seconds later the gunner of the HMMWV ahead of his was blown out of the hatch and into the roadway, bleeding to death from an IED planted to take advantage of exactly that situation. His Sergeant Major was wounded too.

I think of them and I keep my mouth, mostly, shut. This platoon I am riding with, a platoon nobody ever imagined might exist, is working just fine without the Major opening his big mouth. It is a platoon with a Marine Master Sergeant, and enlisted men from the Air Force and the Navy, as well as the Army. I am an Army officer, the senior officer on the patrol. Ultimately, if something goes wrong, the responsibility is mine. But this conglomerate platoon, created of necessity and welded by reality, works well as a team. We move. We do what we can to not to cause harm, but we move. I bite my tongue.

Sometimes, to be a good officer, all you need to know is when to shut up.


This past weekend the temperature was the end of what I think of as “human hot.” After this it becomes “animal hot.” Around about July we’ll hit “Satanic.” It was 105 degrees in the shade, and about 120 in the sun today.

A single mortar came in nearby as I went in to work the other day. Car bombs are obviously still climbing, but I read about most of them the same way that you do. I would personally very much appreciate it if the Iraqis would form a government. I am willing to be patient, however, since I realize how long it took our own first government to get its act together. Given that that process was measured in years, though it was done by men we consider today to be our nigh-unto-godlike “Founding Fathers,” I would be ungenerous to complain about the pace here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just stay out deserter

Read today this article

A U.S. soldier who fled to Canada because he refused to serve in Iraq has been deported, and now faces a possible court martial.
Robin Long crossed the border into Canada in 2005. Last October, he was arrested in Nelson, B.C., on a Canada-wide warrant.
He called military operations in Iraq "an illegal war of aggression."
On Monday, Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish said Long did not provide enough convincing evidence that he will face irreparable harm if he's sent back to the United States.

Another soldier had to take this soldier’s place… he volunteered apparently feeling no shame in bailing out of his contract. Frankly I have no problem with him staying in Canada or any other country for that matter… let him renounce his citizenship as an empty gesture – he should be prohibited from ever stepping foot on US soil again as he is unwilling to stand up to his promise and bond to serve it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Too easy to forget

We celebrated the 4th of July as a summer holiday celebrating that over 232 years ago, our forefathers representing the original thirteen colonies of the United States signed the most important document in our Nation’s history – the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July holiday period is a time to reflect upon our freedom and celebrate the many blessings we enjoy as Americans.

I realized that it was too easy to forget that we have soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that go through this holiday overseas and it is just another day in service. Toiling everyday in most locales, these modern day patriots quietly observe an effort to sustain the freedom we have come to enjoy.

I guess that while enjoying the holiday, it hit me that I should work not to forget that they are enabling my friends and I the opportunity to live in the most free, democratic nation where we experience freedoms that others can only dream about. On a holiday about those who started freedom, we should cheer on a nation where it's citizens care so deeply about freedom & democracy that many are willing to volunteer to join in freedom's defense, when/where the nation calls.

So I’m working to make it harder to forget all those that preserve our freedom on this day after the holiday. We move on with daily routines…but a moment of reflection is easy to accomplish. So today I give thanks to those keeping those freedoms viable while serving us enjoying our summertime pursuits.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Combat Patch

Many civilians do not know the tradition of the combat patch. This is a patch placed on a soldier’s right shoulder. I realize that my Daughter’s unit should be handing out wartime or “combat” patches and I thought I’d offer a little primer on something that most Army soldiers know about in this day and age.

In the Army’s regulatory language

Shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service (SSI–FWTS)
a. General. Authorization to wear a shoulder sleeve insignia indicating former wartime service applies only to soldiers who are assigned to U.S. Army units that meet all the following criteria. Soldiers who were prior members of other Services that participated in operations that would otherwise meet the criteria below are not authorized to wear
the SSI–FWTS. Wear is reserved for individuals who were members of U.S. Army units during the operations.
(1) The Secretary of the Army or higher must declare as a hostile environment the theater or area of operation to which the unit is assigned, or Congress must pass a Declaration of War.
(2) The units must have actively participated in, or supported ground combat operations against hostile forces in which they were exposed to the threat of enemy action or fire, either directly or indirectly.
(3) The military operation normally must have lasted for a period of thirty (30) days or longer. An exception may be made when U.S. Army forces are engaged with a hostile force for a shorter period of time, when they meet all other criteria, and a recommendation from the general or flag officer in command is forwarded to the Chief of Staff, Army.

What all that really means is that a soldier may put a patch on their right shoulder for providing service that takes them into a hostile foreign land and lays down a whole year away from family, friends, civilian pursuits and leisure pursuits.

The danger in the wartime service is evident when you look at the number of soldiers we mourn today from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Take nothing away from this deployment and these soldiers. They face incoming rockets and the threat of [roadside bombs] on a daily basis, and remember, success or importance of a mission is not calculated by number of soldiers lost in the mission. Each soldier here is fulfilling a duty, serving their country and being a part of history.

So many soldiers go through a brief ceremony after a period in country which goes something like Attention to orders, “Having proven themselves under enemy fire while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, (these soldiers) are hereby awarded the unit combat patch forevermore to be worn on the right sleeve in testimony of their selfless service.”

With the patch – the soldier so presented has a significant symbol of the fact that the nation honors them, fellow soldiers honor them, and that’s why they are given a patch to remember forevermore that they were a part of a combat or wartime service effort and sacrifice. I hope that the newest members of the Army receiving a combat patch reflect on the sentiment of thanks that this old soldier notes with the passing of that small patch of cloth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Update on the B

My daughter who is nicknamed "b" sent me a couple pictures from when she was in Kuwait. These shots were taken while she and her unit were enroute to Iraq. She has been in Iraq for nearly two months now and remains in good spirits like she was when these shots were taken. Perhaps she will log on and comment with the nicknames of al the other soldiers in the picture. B is the soldier second from the right about to put her muzzle in the dirt....B!! watch that!!! .... well I was a soldier, I can't help myself.

From all accounts her unit, the 744th Military Police Battalion, is serving with distinction in its assignment in Iraq. The members have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.

Friday, June 06, 2008

VA is still Broken

Not that I get pleasure pointing out the failures of another federal agency, but I have been reading about the Class action suit being filed against the VA over the agencies treatment of PTSD. The VA for its part had an employee that had an e-mail sent to clinicians suggesting they refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD. The E-mail goes on to state the VA does not have resources to test adequately to determine PTSD. Veteran's for Common Sense is taking on the VA over the PTSD treatment of our vets.

The VA fails in providing testing for other ailments - remember Gulf War Syndrome... or how about veteran's exposed to Uranium dust and destroyed vehicles in Iraq?

There is a systematic failure in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs designed to address the medical and overall readjustment needs of war veterans. There is a great communications failure between DOD and the VA for medical records. There is no plan to gather usable data and monitor the 1.5 million deployed Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) service members as they return to duty or reintegrate into civilian society. The continued incomplete process of reintegrating soldiers, especially Guard and Reserve Soldiers is an indicator of continued process deficiencies.

DoD currently requires service members to answer a limited questionnaire to determine if they need to be referred for treatment upon their return from a combat theater. Soldiers are typically rushed to return home after a deployment and do not necessarily give these questions sufficient attention, nor have they changed gears from mission first mentality.

I returned from OIF as a Reservist in 2005. DoD had no provision for me or any member of my unit to obtain physicals or evaluation. As individually mobilized Reserve Soldiers we were swiftly processed, lock step, over 4 days at Ft. Bliss and shipped home. I went to the VA about a month after my return to civilian life (had to take leave from my civilian job) and in the course of trying to get my initial medical screen was assaulted by a Phlebotomist at the Clinic. Literrally I was bum rushed to the VA clinic's front door and have not been scheduled for treatment since. Why - because I was mistakenly scheduled for a Friday of a three day weekend and this infuriated the VA employee. So the Bottom line - no medical exam, check-up, evaluation, etc... for this returning combat veteran Reserve Soldier. My story is not unique and many others can be found online... DoD and VA net effort to identify, treat and reintegrate is near zero and broken.

The VA still has a reported rise in the backlog of more than 100,000 claims. The continued absence of consistently prompt mental health referrals as part of Post-Deployment Health Assessment process plagues effective identification of health needs. Half as many members of the Guard and Reserve file disability claims as compared to active duty veterans and these claims are rejected at twice the rate. Frankly, after 24 years in the Army Reserve, I don’t have a clue how to even start a claim, nor is anyone inclined to step up and assist as I’m now retired.

I believe its time to insist that VA and DoD better coordinate efforts and become more proactive in working with veteran's to transition to VA system. Efforts to effectively share medical information are underway but still far short of what is needed. My medical records from the mobilization were unceremoniously put in an envelope and mailed to my house… no one reviewed, followed up or checked them. I could not get a physical or even medical attention at Bliss within the month I returned as facilities were overwhelmed. The effort at that post at the time being nearly completely invested in those getting ready to deploy. To be fair DoD should conduct mandatory in-person physical and mental health exams with every service member 30 to 90 days after deployment.

The current system still reflects a bias that was relevant before Guard and Reserve soldiers became part of an operational reserve. Little has been done to change the support structure for Reserve component unique challenges in either the VA or DoD. Efforts to integrate the resources of DoD and the VA must be continued beyond sharing medical data to include a true plan of action for citizen soldiers health care in light of the greater reliance of the nation upon their services.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Soldier

This was sent to me - I don't know its origin...but in the din after memorial day...a reflection that remains poignant. I updated it a little bit and added the last line.

Cell phone is in your pocket.
The soldier clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

You talk trash about your 'buddies' that aren't with you.
The soldier knows he may not see some of his buddies again.

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls.
The soldier patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You complain about how hot it is.
The soldier wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong.
The soldier's meal comes out of an MRE bag with a bottle of water.

You go to the mall and get your hair redone.
The soldier hopes to have time and energy to brush his teeth today.

You're angry because your class ran 5 minutes over.
The soldier is told he will be held over an extra 2 months.

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight.
The soldier waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday.
The soldier holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries.
The soldier gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet.

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything.
The soldier sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men and women like them.
The soldier hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see.
The soldier sees the broken bodies lying around him.

You are asked to do a task you don't like and You don't.
The soldier does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

You stay at home and watch TV.
The soldier takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.
The soldier tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long.

You believe that the world does not need the actions of the soldier
The Soldier knows your world exists because of his actions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Are we losing with stop loss?

Stop Loss has always been an interesting concept to me. I was subjected to stop loss at different points of my career with the Army Reserve. The stop loss was sometimes formalized by a message send out by DA that covered entire career fields or functional areas or specific units. More often, however there was a stop loss policy imposed by local commands to hold soldiers that may be needed on a wholesale basis. These stop loss programs involve the delay of outprocessing documents, created red tape for transfers from the reserves for unsatisfactory participants and generally held soldiers as long as possible.

Frankly the fact that I served more than 20 years and was deployed to Iraq was due to my own delayed departure in part as a result of decisions made related to timing when I could leave the Army without a lot of hassle. Ask any soldier that has trasferred to the IRR, between Guard and Reserve or other transfer and you will get stories of a process that is designed to slow down your exit, even when you are no longer obligated to serve.

Based on that I read some of the statistics on the Army’s current Stop loss rates and see they are again increasing (the formal stop loss that is) The number of soldiers held in the Army under the stop-loss program reached a high in March 2005 of 15,758. That number steadily declined through May 2007, when it hit 8,540. But since then, the number of soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders began to increase again, reaching 12,235 in March 2008.

The Secretary of the Army said

"They don't like it any better than I do. But it has proven necessary in order to maintain the force," Gates said. … use of the policy is an issue. It troubles me." "When somebody expects to leave at a given time, and you tell them they can't do that, it's got to have an impact on them. And that's the part that troubles me"

While I understand the necessity of retaining soldiers at critical times, I would echo the sentiment that we still break contracts with soldiers in terms of requirements. The carte-blache approach to applying stop loss both formal and informally shoud stop and we should examine each individual case – all 15,758 of them to determine if we must disrupt that soldier’s life. I would bet there are both volunteers and other soldiers that have not been deployed that can fulfill many of the requirements. We cannot allow leaders to apply organization wide policies that void contracts with soldiers… if it must be done it should be a highy deliberate face to face decision. Any leader worth his salt that cares about soldiers would insist upon a process that does so.

Continued organizational disregard for the shared committment to service contract which is expected and delivered only by the soldier will not serve the Army in the future.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The B is at work

The B is my daughter who is assigned to the 744th MP Battalion and is currently working at Camp Cropper in Iraq. The 744th is slowly settling into its routine and environment at that facility. All reports seem to be good for the unit.

B is finding that she is faced with some of the dull routine and tedium that accompanies such an assignment. As her father I am glad it is so boring and hope it stays quiet for her throughout her tour.

She is otherwise in great spirits and is doing well.

Several of my readers have inquired about her address and I will provide that for those of you that I know so you can drop her a note of encouragement. She likes getting the mail as it is a little bit of home in that locale so far away.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Next Commander in Chief

Well its finally Primary time here in Pennsylvania and the focus is largely on the Democratic candidates running neck and neck. We have been bombarded with ads from both addressing the ills that will be corrected and the usual political promises one would expect prior to our vote.

Much of the focus in this election is centered on the soured economical conditions, the high price of petroleum and the need to change Washington Politics. At the moment there is little in the way of focus on the War in Iraq from most of the Candidates and I understand that the message is currently being catered to what is formost on most American minds here stateside.

I am concerned with the thought that one of the candidates will ultimately be voted in as President in November. That individual will assume the duties as President In January 2009 and more significant to me as a former soldeir, that individual will be the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

There is no course, experience, or training that can completely prepare someone for the duties as CinC. There is much to learn in being a capable leader of the largest and most capable military this world has ever seen. The task is immense - given the current worn but servicable condition of the services, the need for transformation to address future needs, the inevitable budget reductions and balancing act the task may even seem impossible.

The affairs of the Defense Department cannot be managed by one individual of course and the CinC must rely on the judgement and experiece of senior Civilian and military leaders. In the coming days we will get to observe the team assembled to sustain the capabilities of the Military. Lets hope the candidate selected takes the task as CinC as one of their most important and selects a winning team... the cost of failure is significant.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reserve Retirement Legislation has a recent article about Expanding Reserve Early Retirement

Reservists and National Guard personnel mobilized for war and national emergencies for periods of 90 days or longer since Sept. 11, 2001, could see their age-60 threshold for receiving reserve retirement lowered under a bill (S 2836) introduced April 9 by ten Republican and Democratic senators. Read all about the pending legislation here

This would push back retirement for all mobilized Reservist if passed. As it reads currently this does not discriminate for Reservists sent to Iraq or those mobilized under GWOT orders that remained stateside. All would have their retirement date moved up 90 days for each 90 days on active duty.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Where in the world is the B?

To continue updating my few readers on the status of my daughter I can offer the following details. BB is her nickname and I will use that from here forward to identify her status.

B is in Kuwait as of this writing – with her unit in additional training (she says for the 3-4th time they have been doing these tasks). The routine is tedious and “boring” and there is a lot of “lets get to the job” sentiment in the unit. She has been a nomad for the last several days. As she put it “she would like to sleep on the same cot twice in a row” She is living thru a very transient period that most everyone going to or from Iraq has to endure.

I expect that she and her unit will move to their final assigned location shortly and there will be a little bit more stabilization in the routine. The sleeping on cots may not change much over the course of the next year – the living conditions are Spartan in country. She continues to participate, as all of the soldiers in her unit are, in a great sacrifice of personal comfort and freedom to contribute to the Army’s mission. Many don’t realize that in addition to the dangers of the task that soldiers must endure a standard of living and conditions for 12-15 months that are akin to imprisonment in this country.

A loss of personal freedom to meet the tasks of our democracy, freely taken up by a volunteer force of a few, for the good of all.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reserve Soldier Certificate of Service

In what military establishment can you serve as a soldier for 20 years, required to be prepared for deployment and active duty and not be issued a record of your service at your departure? How about a list of your awards accrued after completing your 8 year contracted service? Answer – In the Army Reserve.

You see dear reader – if you do not have an extended active duty period in the Army Reserves you do not receive a DD Form 214 which is a Certificate of release or discharge from Active Duty. Seems logical – the form applies to active duty service. As a Reserve Soldier I received one after 22 Years Reserve service only because I was mobilized…but what if I had not had the active duty… what then? Well the answer is not good…I could not produce a document that detailed my years of Reserve service, my awards, badges, specialty information, grade or character of service. In fact the awards and Reserve service after my last active duty tour, including a subsequent short active duty assignment are not documented in a single source certificate from the Army Reserve.

I’m not alone – every year thousands of Reserve soldiers finish their Reserve commitment and do not receive any certificate or official document that provides the information contained on the Active Duty release document. Soldiers retire after 20 years and cannot provide an accepted document that details the Reserve Career they held. A soldier serving a typical 8 year commitment to the Army Reserve today will receive a DD214 after Basic training and no other document for their service… 7 years of service is not certified, registered, noted except in a personnel file in a file cabinet somewhere. Reserve soldiers cannot provide veteran’s organizations, employers or family a certificate that lists their service both active and reserve that is completed at the end of their tour.

It is about time that we consider a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Reserve Duty for Reserve soldier service. A single certificate that acknowledges a soldier’s achievement over the course of their service. The existing DD214 format would be a great start. The worth of the acknowledgement that the Reserve soldier has a document that provides evidence of their service is significant… especially to that retired soldier …required to be always ready… that didn’t have the opportunity to deploy late in their career to get such a document.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reserve Unit outreach

Recently I received a copy of a letter from a local Reserve Unit Family Support Group that was addressed to my American Legion Post. It seems this Reserve unit has endeavored to enlist the support of the local veteran’s groups for Family support activities.

I have never had contact with this particular unit before, but I thought their approach to enlist help and assistance by introducing their Family Support group to veteran’s organizations was a good idea. It so happens that our American Legion post like many others has a number of programs and events that can be useful to raising public awareness for a mobilized unit, support Family Support group needs, and provide a host of other support to include use of facilities at the Legion post as needed. In my Legion we have contractors to help the families in case of emergency, we have accountants to assist in Tax preparation, we have former soldiers and their spouses that have been through mobilizations as well. The Legion and VFW are local to where the families reside and are very oriented to support family needs. Many of our members are former Military members and understand the significant sacrifice and service the soldiers and their families provide to our country.

I don’t know if this is a Reserve Component initiative or the masterful concept by this one unit, but it is a good idea that may warrant more focus. Imagine the synergy of Reserve and National Guard units being tied with Veteran Organizations. The Veteran’s organization gains in the supporting relationship with potential membership contacts, a direct portal to focus soldier and veteran’s support activities, and community involvement and exposure.

In our case we accepted the opportunity offered to contribute support to this Reserve unit. It was an easy decision for us as we have members in Guard and Reserve units that are in various stages of mobilization and active service. I think there is potential in this concept for the support of Family Support Groups to be encouraged to a greater degree.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Baby is a soldier - update

My daughter is assigned to a Army Reserve Military Police Battalion and has been training for two months in preparation for deployment. I wrote about my daughter’s progress through the training process before and I remain in marvel of the system that transformed my little Girl into a soldier.

We recently had 4 days with her during a Pass from the training (in fact the training is completed) She was picked up from the Barracks that served as one of her temporary homes at the training installation. Most of the training tour period was spend in tents in January and February in the field locations to maximize the training realism of conditions that would be faced over the next year. (probably really because of a lack of space at Ft. Dix which if anyone remembers was BRACed years ago and scheduled to close) As before the unit has a strong sense of efficiency, team atmosphere, competence and determination.

During the 4 days she did the normal 19 Year old type of things, trips to the mall although she didn’t want to purchase much as she would be able to use or wear it for another 10 months. A little bit of networking with friends and sleeping in at home. At the end of 4 days she was ready to return to her new family – her team to get started on the task at hand.

The unit will be departing for overseas shortly with the task of conducting its mission in Iraq. She will be part of an effort often in the shadows for many … including her peers from high school who still worry about fashion, what is in and out and where is the next party. I sense that she knows that it takes silent patriots, like her, to preserve that way of life for her friends. Like many that have served in OIF, she makes up the vanguard of today’s Army quiet heroes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

OIF Contract Frauds

Although not on the forefront of the news lately, I did a little search about contract fraud and some of the more notable Army Officers that participated in such activities over the last several years. I liked into the case of Maj John Cockerham. Cockerham faces an April trial on charges he took $9.6 million in bribes in 2004 and 2005 from firms seeking business with the U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq. Companies that did not accept entreaties to bribe this officer found their contracts terminated. Others received unfair competition for contracts which may have resulted in awards that were not merited.

Another individual allegedly involved was Major Gloria Davis, another contracting officer. Maj Davis killed herself in December, a day after admitting to Army investigators that she took $225,000 in bribes from contractors.

These two “officer” sought personal gain in completing their duties. While the impact on me and other soldiers may seem slight…whether we had shabby poorly maintained living conditions, risk of substandard food, water or other service, but it was real. To date there 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes per the Justice Department.

I read accounts from sites about these two officers in particular that praises their service, bemoans that they are pawns of the system. I even saw that Maj Davis has a headstone in Arlington Cemetery just like any other veteran that served honorably.

My point of note here is that these soldiers forgot a key tenet of Army Values … Selfless service
Selfless Service
Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline, self-control and faith in the system.

These two at least contributed to matters that will impact other soldiers in the future. The Army Contracting apparatus is severely undermanned and will now have untold additional measures to control, restrict (read choke) its utility to quickly support soldier needs. I can guarantee somewhere a soldier will go days longer easting MREs in a new operations waiting for contracted services to be awarded under the new bureaucracy that will be established as a result of these two selfish individual’s actions.

They violated the trust that other soldiers expected in them. They may still be loved by their families, highly regarded by their communities, but in my mind and that of soldiers that relied upon their service… We were let down … These soldiers served … not the Army, not the soldier in the field, not the Army Values… They served deceit, lies, greed and themselves.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do we really need Army Bands?

I’m actually reading in Standto that starting late in FY 08 , all Army bands will be changed to organize bands into separately deployable/employable Music Support Teams (MST). These organizations can be deployed alone or combined with other MSTs to provide different types of music support.

I may get some flak from the Band members out there, but something strikes me odd that we are deploying soldiers as band members and hiring contractors to provide security…. Shouldn’t that be reversed? Frankly I think we would have fewer issues with hiring bands to fill needs for “music support” using same contract vehicles we used for cooks, etc in combat theaters. We reduced the number of Army Cooks years ago recognizing we could contract those skills and the result is much better selection and faire in dining facilities in the combat theater.

Why are we training a number of soldiers to fill roles that are prevalent in the civilian workforce… and it may not be PC to say this, I’d rather have an IPOD for my music support than lose the count of one soldier to play an instrument. If there are 20 soldiers in each band element across 10 organizations we are spending 200 soldiers to produce music I can get in a simple electronic gadget. (Although as a disclaimer, I don’t have much martial or band music on mine)

We need to rethink all aspects of our army to improve efficiency for every soldier trained. Antiquated Victorian institutions such as Army Division Bands don’t fit well in an organization that is struggling to maintain adequate warfighters in boots on the ground.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking back at one mediocre assignment

I looked into AKO to review a document and decided to see where I was 5 years ago. I do this once in a while because I am still amazed at the rapid course of events that have occurred since my departure from the Army Reserves.

I opened and read an evaluation report from 5 years ago – 1993 when I was assigned as a new Battalion commander in the 98th Division. As it turns out it was the only bad report I ever received in my career. I got this OER from a Col Mike Smith (no relation) now BG Mike Smith after my Battalion was noted as the Best QM training Battalion in the Army. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Army system – one bad report effectively kill your chances for advancement, even in the Army Reserve.

Oddly enough my successive Battalion Command reports were very good from the same Colonel Smith, but they changed nothing. I illustrate this phenomenon because every Officer reached their high water mark in their careers just as I did 5 years ago. It may be objection to policies, procedures, or misguided priorities or other failing that marks the jump the shark moment for any officer. The strange thing that occurs just after that realization is the new empowerment to speak your mind and become much more forceful in shaping organizational success…after all you no longer has anything to fear.

Perhaps if senior leadership facing down the Secretary of Defense in 2003 had jumped the shark and had no hope of advancement they too would have been more proactive in engaging the plan that later faltered in execution. Often the most ineffective leaders are the folks worried about their careers and shaping every decision to preserve advancement momentum. Perhaps those leaders that speak their mind and commit career suicide deserve more of the spotlight for making the tough decision that is truly selfless. And to think I come up with this stuff from just looking at my one bad OER.