Thursday, May 31, 2012

If There is a Hell on Earth. . .

The Warrior Transition Battalion, I don't care where it is, I don't care how good the Officers and Cadre are, it is a hellish place to be.  What is a warrior Transition Battalion you ask?  Well its' where they stick all the guys too crippled, sick, crazy or just plain broke to go to combat.  It used to be called Med Hold, where they would hold all the guys that were awaiting the Med Board process.  Iraq, though, changed that.  Suddenly small Army Community Hospitals that were only meant to deal with small scale issues were flooded with amputees, or guys that needed so much care that it was unreal.  Even the Medical Centers (Med Cen) were filling up too fast for the doctors to keep up.  Walter Reed, Brook, Trippler, they were full.  BAMC's burn ward which had once taken civilians would fill on a regular basis, and WRAMC's amputee ward was overflowing.  Even Landshtul Regional Medical Center couldn't handle what they got, and they were just a stop off.

There was no way places like Irwin Army Community Hospital or Darnall (which served Forts Riley and Hood respectively) could keep up them.  Suddenly small hospitals that were meant to support the small towns that are military posts were flooded with people who needed constant care, not just physical, but mental as well.  Even if all the NCOs were pulled from the hospital, they couldn't possibly meed the needs of the sudden influx of Soldiers and Marines.  The Marines, ironically, the only service without medical support of their own, actually came up with a solution, the Warrior Transition Battalion.  It would be a unit that fell under the hospital, or nearest medical command, but would be staffed by non medical Officers and NCOs. 

Every Soldier or Marine from E-1 all the way on up to O-6 (I have not yet heard of a General Officer hurt in this conflict) would have a place to go.  A place that could actually track their case, and would make sure that they were not left to languish.  It was a good idea, and for a time it seemed to work.  But some of these soldiers were so heavily medicated that they started to see other issues, that no one was prepared to deal with.  For instance if you were diagnosed with PTSD or ASR you would be almost automatically given Anti-Depressants, Anti-psychotics, sleep meds, and probably one or two more drugs.  This is to say nothing of the troops that have amputations, burns, shrapnel damage, etc. who would have pain meds thrown on top. 

The general effect of all of this is not to make one feel better, or not feel pain, but to be in a daze that seems to lack any semblance of reality.  In this daze the only thing that can seem real at times is the very trauma that caused them to be there, and the very real physical and emotional pain associated with this trauma.  Its like an old LP record that gets warped and keeps playing the same few seconds of music.  You relive it over and over again.  How can any amount of involvement by Cadre prevent that?  Early on, when it was still just a company and not a battalion a bunch of cadre tried to take some of us out to a pool hall, and get us out of the Barracks.  It didn't end well, some of us just wanted to fight, I myself went up to someone that was talking tough, saying he was going to kick my ass, and tried to goad him into doing just that.  I wanted to have my ass kicked, and for the rest of the night I did everything I could to goad anybody and everybody I came across to beat me up.  Of course I wasn't the only one trying to do that. 

While the program was well meaning what ended up happening in actuality was that soldiers were stuck in a room and allowed to stew in their own juices for days weeks months between appointments.  Simply seeing one's primary care provider could take months, and add in the fact that some were so bad off that the cadre literally had to take them to every appointment, it spelled a recipe for disaster for a lot of troops.  Medications were mixed, sometimes dangerously.  If you weren't a medic and didn't know how dangerous it could be, you'd have barracks pharmacists who would tell you Blank does this, and not know of possible side effects or drug interactions, and keep in mind that most were already self medicating with alcohol. 

Once I was drinking, even though I was on a medication that I shouldn't have, and one of the guys that I was with came to hag out and have a few beers.  I didn't have any beers because I was only drinking the hard stuff at that point, and he shrugged and said "well my girlfriend left me I;m off to kill myself" mater of factly, as if he had just told me he was going to go bowling instead.  I knew he had a gun at home, and would do it, so I stopped him.  He didn't want to be stopped and actually tried to draw a knife on me.  It took myself and a guy who had had rather serious knee surgery to pin him to a wall, while another guy who had TBI and had severe short term memory loss ran to the Staff Duty desk.  When the SDNCO finally got there my buddy was on the floor screaming that he was going to kill us if we didn't let him go, and the guy with a bad knee was turning red because he had banged his knee several times in the struggle.  That wasn't even an uncommon occurrence.

Some were drinking and driving, some were just plain losing it.  Despite the level best efforts of a system that really did care I saw more than one soldier slip through the cracks and get any number of additional issues.  How many of them got med boarded, chaptered or their enlistments simply ran out waiting for definitive treatment?  One Kansas National Guard soldier I knew came in for stage II rectal cancer.  It was still very treatable when he showed up.  When I left he had just told me that the doctors during his check up told him it had proceeded to Stage IV and was terminal, he had about three months to live.  All because he was waiting for treatment.

It is a depressing place that really saps your will to continue.  I know that for myself I was highly motivated when I got there to get back to my unit in Iraq.  When I left I was just going through the motions.  I didn't really care, was demotivated and quite frankly my morale was so low, I don't think I'd have been much use to anybody. 

Iraq was hard.  The WTB was harder.  If you asked me to go there again, I think I would rather eat a bullet, and sadly far too many Veterans are.  Whats more troubling is that I can not really offer any solutions for you.  Our Armor and medical technology is saving people that by all rights should have died.  We are facing a flood of injuries that are really unprecedented.  There is no medical system in the world that is really up to coping with that.  It is a sad fact of life, but one we can not avoid any longer.  How we medically treat and support our wounded warriors is not working.  I do not honestly have a solution only want to shine a light on it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm Really Not Kidding When I Say: Syria, BAD Idea.

What's going on in Syria is horrific.  By all means Assad has no intentions of giving up power and as his regime seems to be, if not exactly a puppet of, then at least has the strongest backing of Iran.  To say that Syria is a problem is an understatement.  Not just for the constant massacres that are taking place but they are one of the main pipelines for Iran to get things through to Hezbollah. Indeed at the height of the Insurgency in Iraq, most of the foreign fighters were funneling through Syria.  At one point there were even a few cross border raids to get HVTs or eliminate weapons cashes.

But now we have another problem.  Namely that we have (yet another) apparently pro-democracy movement in Syria, and we have a regime that is slaughtering its own people left and right.  I won't even bother to point out the parallels to Iraq, that would (sadly) turn every comment left into partisan bickering.  We as Americans hate seeing this kind of stuff, and we as Americans sadly know that the EU, and the UN even NATO will do jack and shit about it.  We saw the same in Darfur, Libya, Somalia, Uganda, Liberia, Vietnam, Korea. . . you name the place that has had some sort of turmoil in the last say 70 years and it has been America leading the charge to make right wrongs.

There's just a few tiny problems there.  First off, is the money.  Its nearly unthinkable that we would actually have to ask this question seeing as we've just fought a decade long war with no real effort on the part of MOST of the nation. . . but since there has been about $5 TRILLION in debt added in just the last three years alone, and the DoD is about to have its budget ruinously slashed. . . where exactly are you planning to get the money to pay for this?  Even if you use only air strikes do you realize how much a Tomahawk Cruise Missile costs?  To say nothing of a B-52 fully loaded dropping independently targeted GPS guided bombs?  Lets look at the kind of gas that would be needed to support the fighter escort, to say nothing of the actual bombers.  The B-2 Spirit is stationed in Missouri.  They have to fly all the way around the world, drop their bombs then fly to Diego Garcia, or another tightly controlled port.  Airstrikes look good on CNN because it appears that no one (at least no one we care about) gets hurt, but that simply isn't the case.  Also one slight problem.  Airstrikes, for all their pinpoint accuracy are indiscriminate.  Once released they can't stop if they see children. 

If we do go into Syria, we will have to put "boots on the ground".  Soldiers and Marines are used to it, but we're desperately needing an infusion of cash to repair or replace all the vehicles that have been going almost non-stop for close to 11 years now.  In Peace time you would take your vehicles to the field maybe once a business quarter, and aside from routine stuff, like driving around post, you really didn't sue them that much.  You could have vehicles that were made in '83 but that would be ok because aside from starting them every Monday for a PMCS (Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services) they would never leave the motor pool!  But try doing Ops in a combat zone.  The same HMMWV that had never given you so much a slash (maintenance code for fault but not dead-lined) on your dash 10 (the PMCS manual) were routinely dead-lined and because they were mission essential ran into the ground then torn apart for parts.  Even the MRAPs are starting to show wear and they have their own problems.

Any ground invasion (which I'm sure Obama wants to avoid like the plague)  would require upwards of 150,000 troops, but that's actually a pretty light number.  I actually think it would take closer to 200,000, just to avoid some of the mistakes made early on in Iraq.  Anyone that does the math can tell you that the Army and Marine Corps can do it, but to do so would stretch their manpower dangerously thin.  Keep in mind this is still with looming Reduction In Force coming.  You are going to lose a lot of combat experienced NCOs and Officers to this coming round of RIFs, which unless Congress acts right now, are going  to happen.  The force would essentially be crippled before the fight, and the continuing manpower issues would only get worse. 

Now all this is on the assumption that Iran doesn't get involved, which knowing them, is not a good bet.  Add to that the fact that the region is already teetering on chaos with the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood and a lot of other nastiness, post "Arab Spring".  Any action taken to overthrow the regime of Syria will upset so many competing interests that its not entirely clear what will happen.  If we support the rebels, we need to be very careful that we know who we're supporting.  Politically speaking the whole thing is such a mess its a wonder anyone is seriously considering getting involved.

Regardless of the realities of it, our political leaders will do what they will.  The military will salute smartly and after scratching their heads for a long while try to make it happen.   I think it will be air strike and naval bombardment intensive, and few if any actual ground troops.  That is assuming there is any actual military action.  I would like to point out, that a lot of the commentators, talking heads, and policy makers that were against Iraq, seem to be for Syria, and while I would like to slap each one of them and ask the difference I know that would do little if any good.  There are times where you can see orders coming.  Orders you know are wrong, and are powerless to do anything but obey them.  This, I think, will be one of those times.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why should you (the Employer) hire a Veteran?

Let's face it there are a ton of people looking for jobs, and if employers are honest they aren't going to hire someone just to hire someone. A job is not a charity, but as anyone can tell you that the employee that is doing more than just filling a slot is worth his weight in gold. Times are tough, but most employers are willing to go on a limb if there is a return on their investment. In terms of dollars and cents what case could be made to employers that will gain or save them money? Veterans as a whole are not used to selling themselves, or explaining the merits of their service they can bring to the table. In the Army and the small world that revolves around it if I say "I was a 68 Whiskey" most people will instantly know that I was a Medic. Tell that to a civilian employer and they might have a vague idea of what that might mean, but chances are they'll be clueless as to the specifics of my job.

 Indeed, while I may find an employer whose seen Blackhawk Down, Band of Brothers, or any other movie about the military they might get the impression that I was the guy that came a running every time someone screamed "medic". Yes that was part of my job but that wasn't the ONLY job I have performed. At one point I as a 22 year old was signed for and responsible for over $1.5 million worth of medical equipment. My job wasn't just to make sure it didn't grow legs but also to ensure it's functionality, ensure repairs are made, and on occasion make on the spot corrections. That level of responsibility is usually reserved for someone much older. On occasion we would have Medics rotate through my ER from some of the line units, there it was my job to train, and supervise. If I were to lay out all my non-medical duties, it's a wonder I'm not making a lot more (that's what the college degree is for)

 But more than vague assurances that I, and indeed a majority of veterans will be quality hires, well worth the economic risk incurred, there are other reasons that an employer should hire a Veteran.

1). Work Ethic. Most civilians work 9-5, they're comfortable with that, and often will leave things that are not critical to their job.  Even in high stress jobs you will often see people clocking out exactly when its time to clock out.  Veterans however typically want to stay until the job is done.  The task you give them might not be critical, but all the same the Veteran will be irked until it is finished, this will often leave him or her working OT, or off clock to make sure the job is done on time.  The "No excuses" attitude, will often mean that they will not try to equivocate if they can not do the task, but will do their utmost, and let you judge if some stone was left unturned. This will often leave many to describe them as "dependable". 

2). Punctuality.  Its an old joke in the Army that whenever a time is set, the next level down always pushes that back by 15 minuets or more.  This leads to "hurry up and wait".  But as a rule if you're 15 minuets early you're on time, if you're on time you're late, if you're late you're screwed.  This means that Service Members like to plan ahead to ensure that they are always at least a little early.  This can be important if your company is trying to set a good impression, or if there are last minuet details which need to be ironed out. 

3). Adaptability.  Ever had some small issue that seemed to cause a whole task to come down around its ears?  Don't worry Veterans are well versed in such things.  They even have acronyms for just those occasions (FUBAR, SNAFU, and BOHICA.  Look them up at your own leisure)  The point is some piece of mission essential equipment is always breaking down right when you need it.  Murphy's Law and Soldiers are old friends.  From this familiarity is a Maguyveresque talent for stringing solutions together that might not be considered otherwise.  This is most evident however, in non-operational ways.  Ever seen a really good combat hooch (small living area made as comfortable as possible with personal ingenuity).  Give these men a roll of Duct tape and they can make a Palace, trust me I've seen them. 

4). Problem Solving Abilities.  While this might seem to go along with adaptability there's a key difference here.  There will be times where the Veteran is not even close to a subject matter expert, or is out of his depth on an issue.  That's ok.  If they do not know the answer they will usually be able to find the answer, and if they can't find it themselves, they'll be able to find whoever does have the answer.  There might be no correct answer, so they will provide you with all the information you will need to make an informed decision as their boss. 

5). Courtesy.  Customer Service seems to be a dying art in this day in age.  Simple courtesy is lost on people.  Veterans are used to giving great deference to their superiors and civilian leaders, even if often privately we disagree totally.  Sometimes when a customer is irate the simple act of being courteous and making the extra effort to see their needs are met will go a long way towards your company's success.  Don't be afraid to test them out in a customer service role.  It may not be a job they want to do, but if you tell them to treat the customer as they would if they were still in and dealing with a superior officer (Lieutenant Colonels and above love to call Staff Duty and gripe about something) you will often click their old training in to benefit your company. 

Lastly, there's always the free publicity.  Disney is set to hire 1,000 Veterans.  In a time when the economy is down and people aren't going to amusement parks, Disney has gotten both free and good press by taking a simple action of hiring Veterans.  They may be hired to wear the suits, and pretend to be Goofy, or they may get hired as maintenance, or even Latrine sweeper.  Doesn't really matter, Veterans have probably done it all and will take the jobs offered.  It doesn't even really matter that Disney probably goes through that much and more employees in a month.  The simple gesture of hiring Veterans may get you noticed.  This would be especially good for small businesses.  It may not seem like it because the Veteran population is such a small percentage of society, but if you make your hiring process "veteran friendly" believe me the word will get around and you will get noticed.  Veterans were social networking before there was an internet, now that there is, expect great return for anything you do to benefit this community. 

I could go into altruistic reasons to hire a Veteran, but really Such thing must always be viewed in context.  If we are honest, our country can ill afford as a whole too many charity cases.  So don't treat hiring Veterans as a charity case.  Treat it as a hiring a quality worker.  Treat it as an investment.  Trust me when I say, they don't want to be treated as charity cases anymore than you would.  You may not have a slot for an Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer, but that's perfectly ok.  They are ready willing and able to learn any skill that you need them to.  When they come to you resume in hand they're coming to work, they're coming for gainful employment.  So the next time a person with a High and Tight hands you their Job Application, take a moment to consider what you might gain by hiring a Veteran. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A War on Islam?

At face value is the Global War on Terror, a war on Islam?  Now before you answer yes or no consider this, the "War on Terror" took place primarily in two countries but there are tangents happening pretty much all over the world.  From the South Pacific, to Europe and Africa, it would be hard to argue that this is not a global war, if to on the scale of say wars against Fascism Imperialism and Communism.  So are we fighting Islam, or just the Radicals?  The truth is at this point its not so clear anymore.  When we started this whole shindig in October of 2004, we really had no idea why the Jihadis hated us so much.  We were going to meet them in battle and defeat them.  We defeated them again and again and again.  In fact almost every time they fought us they would get so thoroughly defeated that it was actually kind of pathetic. 

Despite this they kept on coming.  For a while we were killing so many armed insurgents that one almost had to wonder if it was the Arab form of population control.  Even when they switched to IEDs and more insurgent tactics, realizing they were hopelessly outmatched in stand up fights, again, they kept dying in droves.  Every time they hurt us, we'd hit back ten times as hard.  Every time they seemed strong, we would redouble our efforts.  No one was safe, not the foot soldier, not their leaders.  We're killing their leadership at such a prodigious rate its a wonder anyone volunteers for the position.  

Yet despite this, it doesn't seem like we're really winning does it?  I mean sure Iraq seems to be in the "win" column, but if we look at Egypt electing the Muslim Brotherhood, Libya soon to follow suit, Palestine so hopelessly in the camp of Hamas that it's a wonder they haven't changed the name to Hamasland, Saudis barely able to control their citizens, Yemen almost in complete anarchy, the Philippians in almost open insurrection, and Europe facing a non-integrating population that riots almost every month.  This is to say nothing of a possibly Nuclear armed Iran that is starting to be able to project power (albeit pitifully) into the Western Hemisphere. defines radical as:

thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms

favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms
So if we take those definitions are we still at war with "radical" Islam?  Sadly I have been drawn to the conclusion that "Radical" Islam is in fact not as radical as it once was.  Also though I hate to admit that we are partially responsible for this.  Not in the way that most liberals like to say, but rather in the way that we have not openly confronted this.  Being able to speak openly on an issue, is the first step to actually solving the issue.  Unfortunately we have to be "sensitive" about everything.  

Take South Park.  Long long ago they did an episode that was really not commented on (amidst all the other things they've done) that took on David Blane.  They had a string of characters called "the super best friends" of whom Mohamed was a member.  No one said anything about it at the time.  Later they did an episode called "Cartoon wars" which was a two parter, and actually exactly about the fact that everyone freaks out about showing Mohamed.  They went so far as to show the entire nation burring its head in the sand.  For their 200th episode (and their 201st) they again took on Islam, making fun of the fact that you couldn't show Mohamed.  The many celebrities that the show had ripped on came up with a plan to steal Mohamed's "goo" so they couldn't be ripped on.  Both episodes were removed from iTunes, and Netflix.  To my you can only find them on youtube.  They even went back and removed the previous episode.  Keep in mind that hey have (and still do) make fun of every other religion.

In Europe they regularly have riots for offenses that are pretty minor.  How many Christians feel demeaned by the constant attack by the Liberal Left?  They take it.  But if one Muslim is banned from going to school in a burka they'll tare up Paris.  Does that make any kind of sense?  The West's dealings with the Muslim world have not always been confrontational, so why does it seem like the last 20 years the opposite is true?  
It doesn't really matter the why One could study a lot of history there (and find that surprisingly it had a lot less to do with Israel that you would think) but it really doesn't matter. A lot of the people that follow Islam are just folk, they want to go about their daily lives and pray, and hopefully make it into Heaven.  The problem is that their Mullahs and Imams have been stirring the pot for so long with so much BS that really the poor simple folk have no other version to believe.  The Extreme became Mainstream, and now you have a whole mess of people who would have been "moderate" perfectly ok when a random person gets beheaded for something they might have done to offend Muslims.  

Until we reach the Moderates that really are moderate, and the guys that just want a peaceful life, we will be effectively (though not in name) at war with the aggressive expansion of Islam.  If we do not start tacking this issue in a theocratic as well as secular way we will soon find a lot of realy unhappy endings that future generations will regret we resorted to.  Only Muslims can reform Islam.  We can help, but we can not do it for them. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Battle Buddy Failed

Around this time last year, I was in Chicago O'hare international airport, and my Senior Medic from Bravo 2-16, Jay called me to let me know Holmes was dead.  I was shocked, how did he die I asked, he hung himself.  It only got worse when I started to ask around for details.  Apparently his fiance and mother of his daughter had come home to find him hanging with 550 cord, he was obviously dead, and his daughter was screaming nearby.

The last time I had talked to Neil, was when his daughter was born just a few months before.  He was happy and excited.  How did he go from excited to be a father to. . . dead.  What possibly transpired to make him so despondent that he felt the need to kill himself?  At some point he started acting a little off, and talked to his soon to be wife about a time when the platoon came under contact, and he killed a little girl on a rooftop.  To make matters worse he was looking at pictures from the deployment, the pictures you're not supposed to show to the media.  Things only got worse from there, to the point where he flat out told her he was suicidal. 

He had called the VA Suicide hotline, I do not know what was said, but I do know that because of his economic situation he couldn't afford to go to the nearest VA Facility.  I also know that if he had flat out said "I am going to kill myself" the police would have been called.  Could he have been treated could he have been saved?  I don't know and this question really bothers me.  Could I have reached him?  Its possible.  We're so spread out, having come from all walks of life, but I know that at least someone in the Company could have come to his aid if he had asked.

You know what's most troubling about this whole incident?  To my knowledge 2nd platoon never killed any little Iraqi girls.  Even the girl in the van on 12 July 2007 survived.  Indeed at that point, pretty much every time we fired our weapons there was a 15-6 (investigation).  Neither the Battalion nor the Army as a whole has any record of us in heavy contact killing a little girl on a rooftop.  We came under contact plenty of times, and there were plenty of times we killed people, but never anything like he described.  So what happened?

Well I think I know the answer.  Something similar happened to me while I was at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Riley.  See when you experience combat, it can be intense.  The Adrenalin flooding through your system makes the memories sharper, and thus more readily recalled.  But the mind can be like a bad lithograph that has warped.  A bump in a lithograph will cause the needle to jump and skip thus making it repeat.  The mind can do the same thing, only it can be far worse.  For me I would replay the 7 minuets that it took to get Craig to Loyalty.  I could replay all seven minuets in their entirety and the feelings of utter failure only increased with each playback.

When 2-2 was hit, I could remember the stench of burning Humvee and could almost imagine burned human flesh.  I didn't actually smell that at the time, but my mind started playing tricks on me, and because I knew what that smell smelled like (burn patients stick with you) my mind could insert that in.  One of the guys there had said that they'd heard screaming, and I had almost convinced myself that I had heard Harrelson screaming for help when the Humvee was engulfed in flames.  It was only when I talked to Drew and Price, who were in the vehicle, that I realized Harrelson was dead before the Humvee hit the ground, that I started to let go of this image.  Still a Burning Humvee with rounds cooking off, and an AT-4 blowing, is not an easy image not to dwell on.

When the "Collateral Murder" Video was released and pundits and Political activists gleefully picked it apart trying to tease out the horror, well I went right back to that state.  See I felt no sympathy for those insurgents that had been killed, nor the reporter.  I was actually more worried that I didn't feel anything, but that day was pretty memorable.  There's a lot of things the video doesn't show, like getting mortared in the open, which happened as my platoon left Gate 5.  It doesn't show that for a majority of the day we were actually doing good works.  but it also doesn't show the drastic measures we took to try to save the survivors of the incident.  It doesn't matter, the glee with which people took this as proof of the "heartless killer" meme did horrendous things to my mental state.  Yes I did have flashbacks.  It really wasn't pretty.

In the WTB, I nearly did commit suicide.  Twice.  Once outside of a strip club, I had the bright idea of running into traffic, but was saved by a soldier from 1-16 Infantry, whose simple action of giving me a ride back to the barracks saved my life.  The second time I was on a back roads driving as fast as my new Mustang would go (safely) and for the first time in a long time I felt alive, the music was blaring something angry, and it was only because one of the guys I knew, Gary, gave me a call.  Ironically he needed help, which probably kicked in my latent need to be the Medic that fixes everything.  I never thought about suicide in 2009, I had long passed that hurdle, but if I hadn't I probably might have thought about it, and this time I would not have any battle buddies to stop me. 

Holmes, did not have any battle buddies to save him.  He did not have anyone who could reach through his despair and shake him out of it.  Ironically enough when it comes to Veterans, when they get really bad, only another Veteran can reach them.  It doesn't matter what combat they saw, that shared experiences ans bond between all that have seen combat, can sometimes be the only lifeline that will save a Veteran who is seriously contemplating killing themselves.  I know that at the very least I could have reached Holmes.  I could have gotten him to hold off, if only long enough to call someone to come get him, and get him the help he really needed.  I failed him as his medic, his friend and his Battle Buddy.  His loss is no less tragic than those that died in combat, though it will probably not be treated as solemnly because he no longer wears the uniform of this nation's Army.  I think we as a Nation owe him the same gratitude and reverence that we owe men like Andre Craig Jr (06/25/07 Ruatamayah Iraq), James J. Harrelson (07/17/07 Rustamayah Iraq) or James D. Doster (09/29/07 Rustamiyah Iraq).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Most Pointless Protest. . . EVER

In 1971, pretty much as the war was almost over VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) gathered together to throw their Medals at the Capitol, while inside John Kerry delivered a speech, and gave testimony of atrocities uncovered during the "winter Soldier" Conference.  For most people this was the ultimate display of defiance of a corrupt war that was no longer supported by even the people fighting it.

 Nice 'Stach.  Maybe he spent too long in the field without soap.  yeah I'm sure thats why it looks like he's not using it in this picture. 

Reality, was a bit different.  See in 1970, during the Cambodian Incursion US troops FINALLY stuck at the Ho Chi Mihn trail.  They had finally gone on the offensive and tried to really solve the problem.  Political back lash stopped them short of some key objectives that might have crippled the NVA even more.  Indeed one of the last battled of the Vietnam War, which took place at FSB Ripcord, was the Army trying to Attack.  See, right up until the end of ground combat, we really wanted to WIN, and a lot of the "disillusionment" came from an Administration (Johnson) that neither knew what to do with a military, or how to treat it.  A war for Body Count was doomed to drag us down, and make Vietnam a pointless brawl.  A war to keep Vietnam Free, that would have worked.

Now this scene of Veterans throwing their medals, has a lot of problems to it.  For one, this was entirely a political stunt by the new Left, and as such it was meant to garner as much publicity as possible.  Worse, it was found out after the fact that some of the people that threw medals weren't even Veterans.  Inside, John Kerry was spinning tales of horror that shocked the conscience, that, truly horrified not only the nation but its leaders, and launched his forthcoming Tenure in the Senate.

 Nce Hair.  Douche. 

One tiny little problem.  A majority of it was false.  Not only never happened but made up.  It was found (much much later and with much investigation) that some of the most horrific tales of slaughter weren't told by actual Veterans, but by random people, some of them strung out on drugs.  How many times have you heard the whole "ears on necklaces" meme?  You think: it was a brutal war, seeking a body count of course that had to mess with people's heads. . . Yes it did.  That does not mean that people would go around cutting off ears and stringing them around their uniform.  You think someone, company commander, Bn Sergeant Major, or hell maybe even the guy's Battle Buddy, might have gotten that guy the hell out of there? Indeed when you actually live in the military you realize how ludicrous this meme is. 

For most Americans this was the "turning point".  But again that doesn't make sense, because the Turning point actually started in 1969 when Nixon began the Vietnamization program and started troop draw-downs.  Indeed while there were still a few major battles to be fought, in terms of timing it would have been like someone protesting WWII after the US Army crossed the Rhine in January of '45.  What VVAW actually accomplished has been hyper-inflated in both history, and popular culture.  Now IVAW, which strangely enough seems to employ the same tactics as VVAW (to include having non-veterans and SMs who never set foot in the Area of Operations as members) has decided to hold their own medal tossing at NATO.  Gee.  Lets see what's wrong with this.

1). NATO never has, nor to my knowledge ever will have anything to do with Iraq.  The US may come to Europe's aid if say the Balkans start acting up, or some EU yahoo gets it in their head to oust someone that should have been ousted decades ago, but don't expect them to reciprocate.

2).  Iraq Veterans Against the War. . . ok. . . So War's over buddy.  There might continue to be some SOCOM involvement but really the War (Second Gulf War, Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Global War on Terror- Iraq Front. . . take your pick, all are accurate all have been used) is OVER.  You haven't seen any AVAW groups have you?  So Iraq Veterans being against the War in Iraq makes a whole lot of sense protesting a completely different front with completely different history (and problems).

3).  In all seriousness, a majority of the folks in IVAW beclown themselves by wearing partial uniforms, or dress in ways that are just plain stupid.  Take the star of Occupy for a short while, Marine Sgt Shamar Thomas.  He was yelling at NYPD (for no apparent reason) with Desert Marcam top and medals on. . .  Wrong wrong WRONG!  Almost immediately he was ripped a new one by Veterans (but most especially by Marines) and it was found out that his tales of Combat were greatly exaggerated.  It might be the cool and hip thing to do to wear the uniform all jacked up, but to anyone that's actually worn the uniform it signals one thing Sh**bag.  A worthless troop who probably isn't worth giving the time of day because he's a grade a screw up.

There's so much wrong with this picture I don't know where to begin.

4). Lastly, what exactly do you hope to accomplish?  A dozen guys at best throwing a bunch of brass and ribbon at a building where the people inside are never even going to see it, and during the backdrop of near riots from "peace" protestors. . . you're gesture will mean all of Jack and Squat.  If anything it illustrates how foolish you are. 

Of course we will no doubt be treated to round after round of people talking about it.  I'm sure the next time anyone has a large meeting or hearing about the war we can expect to see the same over and over again.  This pointless meme of Iraq=Vietnam has been debunked so many times that it almost elicits face palm when someone tries to bring it up again, but for the Again Hippies, and the children that for some bizarre reason want to follow in their footsteps this is the only meme they know, so they'll try again and again to get you to believe that meme too.

Actually when put in terms like that, I'm not sure which its more of; sad or pathetic.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear Mr President. Do or Do Not, There Is No Try

Believe it or not, war is actually a lot more black and white than most Americans have been lead to believe in the post-Vietnam world.  There are really only two options Win: in which your enemy is destroyed and thus unable to fight, or realizes that they simply can't continue to fight OR Lose: either you can not continue to fight, or you are destroyed by your enemy.  There is no Draw.  In reality all wars that were considered a "draw" were simply preludes to a furthering of war, that usually went decisively one way or another. 

Don't believe me, well what was WWI, but a prelude to WWII?  Everyone but the Americans were tired of fighting, and though Germany was losing they hadn't lost.  The Americans who had only been on the lines a few months, and kept on attacking right up until the 11th hour of the 11th day felt that this would be a false peace.  Gen "Black Jack" Pershing was totally against the Armistice for the simple reason that in a few years the Americans would have to come back and fight again.  He was right.  Germans didn't feel defeated, and yet had to suffer the ignominy of defeat as per treaty.  Ever wonder how a nobody corporal, who was put on trial for treason of all things became the Vice-Chancellor?  Its because Germans still thought they could have won the war. 

How about Vietnam?  In almost every battle US Soldiers preformed brilliantly.  Despite the brush VVAW, and many media outlets might paint, when the US Army or Marine Corps went into battle they went into win, and fought like tigers (even the draftees).  The draw-down and "Vietnamization" from about 69-72, still saw US troops doing their best to win the war, and leave the Republic of Vietnam free.  When the Paris Peace accords were signed, there were a lot of things in it that should have been red flags, like the fact that NVA troops could stay in the country.  It didn't take long for the Democratic People's Republic of Vietnam to break its word and launch a full invasion of the south.  Bereft of the Material and Monetary Support and more importantly Air Support that the RVN was promised the ARVN fought bravely, but it was a foregone conclusion. 

So why haven't we had to fight Japan or Germany again?  Because we won.  We crushed their ability to fight, and more importantly showed them the futility and if you will, the error of their ways.  With Germany, the Allied troops were marching through their lands with impunity, any units of the Wehrmacht that were still able to bare arms were manned by child soldiers, or so hopelessly outgunned that it would have been sheer suicide to keep fighting.  The Luftwaffe, had ceased to exist, so there was no real way to escape their fate.  With Japan, it was far more about the will to fight.  Believe it or not the Fire-bombing of Tokyo killed more people than both Atomic Bombs combined (to include deaths from ARS or Acute Radiation Syndrome, and Cancer after the fact), and yet they gave the Japanese version of the middle finger after Tokyo was bombed but capitulated after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Why?  Because the Japanese realized that there would be no hope, that if the Americans had the technology to wipe out a city with a single bomb then there was no possible way to resist.  To be VERY clear I'm NOT advocating the use of Strategic or even Tactical Nukes against our current enemies, but putting a healthy dose of Fear into the enemy is a good thing. 

Also, though we have not directly engaged Russia in Ground combat since 1917, there is a lesson from the victory in the Cold War.  Wars are not always fought on the battlefield.  Sometimes they are waged through economic means.  If we take that into account and look at the world today, it sure seems that someone is out there trying to make economic war on America.  Again this is a war we can still win.  How?  well let's be smart.  Instead of trying to go with solutions that seem politically correct, how about we go with solutions that are economically so.  I don't care about "Green" anything, but if you have a methodology of mass producing energy that can be controlled inside the United States?  Go for it.  Likewise I don't think "Bio Diesel" is going to do much, but if we can make Octane, then by all means rev that bad boy up and lets make some gas. 

In all our endeavors as a nation, we can either win or lose.  There is no draw.  The "withdrawal" from Afghanistan seems a little too much like a defeat for my tastes.  Its clear to me that the ANA is not ready to fight on its own, and is almost regularly being infiltrated by Jihadis.  The Karzai government is demonstrably corrupt, and the narco-terrorists that are the Taliban have even come back to power in certain areas.  If we want the W in Afghanistan (No not the President.  Get your head out of the political gutter) then we'll have to dig deep and state once and for all that we're not leaving until we've won. We don't have just Military tools at our disposal.  If we're hitting a wall militarily, lets attack the Taliban economically.  Hey here's an idea what if we taught the Afghans industrial farming practices?  What if we taught a couple of folks how to mass produce say Tractors and tractor parts?  Why they could build for themselves all the tools they'd need, and might even have a modicum of success.  Amazing!  If you can't attack Economically (because they are living about 100 years in the past technologically), than make a cultural attack.  Hey here's a thought how about we use mass propaganda.  Its not like there's any lack of material to show just how bad the Taliban is.  Use that.  If not there, then attack Theologically.  That is really hitting them below the belt but if you can use the Qoran against them. . .

My point is, if you want to win in Afghanistan, then act like it, and fight like a lion, never give up, and never give half hearted measures.    If you think you might lose, then now is the time to cut your losses.  Pack your stuff up, and pull out.  Pull everyone out, with little or no warning.  Destroy in place what you can't pull out by bird.  Pretending that there is a third option is only going to make matters worse when the inevitable resurgence does come.  America can take a loss, so long as our leaders are honest about it.  If you try to spin this as a win that loses, then America will lose more than just respect or world position.  We will have lost hope, and we will lose faith.  Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that 50% of the President's 2008 Campaign slogan (well 33.3% if you add the word "and")?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Women Infantry (Equal Opportunity Body Bags)

So the Huffington Post is reporting that a Senator whose probably never served a day in her life, is trying to get Females into the Infantry.  It goes on to state that Medic and Tank Mechanic were opened up to women.  Now as I've know a lot of female Tank Mechanics, and Medics, this is extremely misleading.  To be absolutely clear there ARE female medics (a lot of them) and tank mechanics.  They are not in infantry or mech battalions, for the sole reason that it can cause problems.   It goes on to say that there's a LOT of support, civil rights blah blah blah.  Even the poll at the bottom is pretty slanted, it kinda makes you sound like a sexist if you disagree with this bill.  My question is this, has no one bothered to educate these congress critters, that Combat is NOT Politically Correct? 

So let me debunk a few things right now.  Women still don't "serve on the front lines".  There are no lines and that might confuse some people, but the Front, or the pointy end of the spear is not now, nor ever where women are intentionally placed.  Have women engaged in combat?  Yes.  Some quite successfully, but ask yourself this, what role were they playing?  Were they kicking in doors, and doing urban assaults like say the Battle of Najaf?  No, they were ambushed, and responded to contact, or more likely in fixed emplacements, guard towers and the like.  If we were to make a College Course for that, it would be Army Stuff 201.  Its not the really basic stuff like how to salute and march in formation, but its pretty darn close.  Infantry by comparison would be 400-masters level.  Special Forces would be a Doctorate.  When we talk about the "front lines" to be clear we are talking about the people that actively seek out the enemy.  Support units (which is all females are allowed to serve in) do not do that.  Even MP units do not seek out the enemy.  They might do route clearance, but they're looking for very specific things (IEDs, VBIEDs, and EFPs), not armed Jihadis to engage.

There has even been the argument made that some females were killed while attached to the Ranger Regiment, and if they were with the Rangers then. . .  Again this is misleading.  If you had never served you might think that they were Rangers.  They're not.  They were Specialists (not the rank) who were attached to preform a specific function (female contact team).  There are times when SF, SEALs and Rangers will take specialists along for a mission, say EOD, or Translators, or any number of specialties that might be needed on a specific mission.  It is understood that these specialists, who are experts in their field, will not be experts in the TTPs (Tactics Techniques and Procedures) of said unit, and thus will be kept away from the actual fighting, or protected, until their specialty is needed.  There is actually increased risk to the unit when such specialists are brought along, because often their specialty is Mission Essential and thus the specialist must be protected at all costs.  If the Rangers came under fire, these females would have been at the CCP (Casualty Collection Point) or the safest possible point.  Had the Rangers been on a mission to assault an objective, they would have done so, and only after the objective was secured would the specialits be brought in.  Again it can be misleading if you haven't lived the life. 

Believe it or not Female infantry was tried by the Israelis, not because of equality or diversity or any of that, but because at the time they were desperate for shooters.  You know what they found?  It doesn't work.  There are a number of reasons.  The most obvious is the physical reasons, but there were also less obvious ones.  For instance, there were a number of what one might call "battlefield pregnancies".  Believe it or not when you're fighting for your life you tend to want to have sex like a mad lust bunny.  There were also unit cohesion problems, and like it or not, males tried hard to "protect" the females, often taking inappropriate risks to prevent the females from injury or death.  The social dynamic could also be an issue.  In a small group with only so many choices, the young males would compete and even get into brawls to obtain the female's attention or affections.  If said hook-ups didn't last, well. . . civilians know that sex in the workplace can lead to problems, in combat units those problems can be magnified, doubly so because there's no "quitting" to get away.  Lastly if/when the female did get injured or killed, it would harm unit morale far more than if the male counterpart died.   

So here we are.  After ten years of war where females appear to be "on the front lines" we have truly boneheaded political moves, to try to make appearances a reality.  But unlike the politically sanctioned world politicians tend to want to view things in reality, combat does not care about greater opportunity for women.  It doesn't care about race or creed or sex.  In the real world, there is only one question that you must ask: Can you hack it?  Combat is as real as it gets.  You won't hear the bullet that gets you.  Your buddy will, though.  A sharp CRACK and a wet SMACK and down you go.  What got you killed is up for debate.  Were you not moving quick enough to cover, or were you taking too long to shoot at a target?  Doesn't really matter anything you do in combat can and will get you killed.  That is why senior NCOs, most especially in Combat Arms are anal retentive.  Small things add up, and usually the addition leads to more body bags.  In training they will drill till perfection, because in combat you get no do overs.  Every mistake, or failure to take full advantage of the enemy's mistakes will mean more lives lost (on both sides ironically enough).    

What Irks me about this proposed measure, and the CSA's mild agreement with it (to the point he is considering sending women to Ranger School) is that no one ever stopped to ask if this would make us more capable as a force.  No one bothered to say "we're doing this because of manning shortfalls" or "we have this new fangled weapons system that will eliminate the physical disparity".  They even acknowledged the disparity when trying to design the new APFT.  This is being done purely for political reasons.  Politicians making Political decisions when it comes to war is has and always will be a bad idea.  You fight to win, and anything else is a waste of life, money, time, and even good will.  Don't believe me?  Then I have two words for you: Johnson, Vietnam. 

I Am a Veteran, NOT a Victim.

You know, I don't know what is worse about being a Veteran, the idea that people pity me, or that they fear me.  Neither is appropriate, and yet I get both, sometimes from the same person when I admit to being a Veteran.  I can deal with being thanked, its awkward, because I really don't think I've done anything more than any EMT, Fireman or Policeman, but even with my usual flippant reply "Don't thank me thank my recruiter", I always make sure to leave the citizen with the impression that it is appreciated.

But how am I supposed to respond to questions about Post Traumatic Stress?  PTSD has become so much of a catch phrase that the VA and AMEDD are actually thinking of changing the terminology.  Doesn't matter what they call it, I saw friends, in some cases good friends, killed, or wounded.  It wasn't like a John Wayne movie where they clutch their gut and fall over.  It was more graphic, more painful to watch, and more gut wrenching to keep my whits and treat them.  This is usually the point that someone will say "I could never do that".  Yes you could.  I did it, so can you.

There is no special gene that makes a soldier able to function in combat.  There is no family background, or economic class that says that you can or can not preform in combat.  It doesn't matter if your stupid or smart poor or rich, the truth about soldiers is that the only thing that makes us special, is that we volunteered to do it.  I knew a guy who grew up in a hut, and slept on the dirt every day in Kenya, but was solid as a rock when you needed him, and I've met guys that were working on their doctorate, one of them was my Drill Sergeant.  Have you ever met a PFC that could afford a set of Dress Blues (before they became the new Uniform they ran for easily $700 a pop)?  I have. 

In my life I have made many choices, some I regret, but Enlisting, then Reenlisting was never one of those.  I was pushed to my physical, mental and spiritual limit as a Soldier, then pushed beyond those limits.  I felt pain as one would not believe, and then some more, and it did not break me.  I have endured sweltering heat and freezing cold, and now I can honestly say that such things do not phase me anymore.  Through all the adversity I have learned who I am, on a level most people never dream of.  This is not something you should pity, but rather envy, for if you do not know yourself how can you possibly find fulfillment in life?

Yes I had an Acute Stress Reaction.  Is that Post Traumatic Stress?  Not according to the VA.  Doesn't matter if it is PTSD, it is what it is.  Have I thought about committing suicide?  Yes.  I almost did twice.  Once I was going to take my car as fast as it would go and ram a wall, the other time I was going to charge oncoming traffic.  In both cases, two things stopped me, the first is that it would be a piss poor way to repay the buddies that were still in the sandbox, and the ones who gave it their all, but more importantly, a Battle Buddie saw that I was hurting, and on the edge and stopped me.  It took a long time, but I found the will to live, and to keep fighting daily for my wonderful screwed up life.

I am a Veteran.  I served this country faithfully and honorably.  I am not a victim, you can not be a "victim" if you are a willing participant.  I have Post Traumatic Stress, but I do not "suffer" from it, it is a condition like any other that can be overcome like any other.  I am not a ticking time bomb, nor am I a blood thirsty psychopath.  If some days are harder than others that is simply means that the good days will be that much better.  So to every American out there I say, thank me if you must, but do not ever pity me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"I'm In love with a stripper"

If you served a day in the Military you've probably had an E-fuzzy, or an E-2 that just got out of Basic and AIT and has not an ounce of common experience.  They're probably anywhere from 17-19 and this is the first time on their own making their own decisions, and holy cow look at how much money they have in the bank after BCT!  They can now go anywhere, do anything and have the means to do it! 

Where do you think these young men end up.  The Mall?  The local college?  The Car dealership?  The Grocery Store?  Nope none of those.  They end up at the nearest (and usually skankiest) tiddy bar.  Yes this wallflower was too awkward in high school to see too many breasts, and here they are quite literally in your face!  This poor kid is probably bought a lap dance by the more experienced E-4's or maybe a SGT from the Repo Depot.  They're getting a kick out of the sheer terror he displays as the woman (and more often than not, the skankiest they could find) leads him to the back room, or a booth, and proceed to give a lap dance.  They'll cheer and drink and laugh and meanwhile the poor private is experiencing more than any spin the bottle fantasies he had previously entertained. 

He'll come out looking dazed.  Probably stumble into another stripper, and that glazed over look on his face should have made his buddies stop and seriously rethink the coming night, but by this point they're too drunk to care.  They don't notice his repeated trips to the ATM or his trips to the back room.  Its not until the night is over and they've had their fill of Beer Whiskey, shitty food and boobs, that they start to notice that young private is missing.  He's in the back talking to that stripper.

They collect him, and go back to Replacement to sleep off the night.  The next day this kid will not shut up about last night.  The poor Specialists, and Sergeants are nursing a hangover, and this dude didn't drink a drop!  When the evening finally comes, they are hanging out, they talk about going out but if they have any sense they don't go out too much until their cars get here, or they know someone to be a DD, but here's this kids saying "hey we should go to [insert tiddy bar here]."  He looks a bit let down when the guys he went with say "nah lets just go to a bar".  He tries, almost desperately to convince them to go back.  When he fails to get them to go he goes on his own, eating the Taxi fare himself.  You and your buddies go to the bar, have a fun night, and hey you might actually score with a local, but chances are you're just out to have a good time. 

Meanwhile that dumbass went to the tiddy bar and blew up to $200 dollars on one stripper, who does nothing to disuse him of this dumbassery.  He comes back his buddies from the first night all stagger back and our young Private will do one of three things.  He will either A). Not shut up.  About this Girl he was with all night (trying to leave out the fact that it was the stripper from the night before.  B).  Have his head in the clouds and hardly speak about the night or C). will be butt hurt that his buddies didn't go with him, and tell them only as much a courtesy demands.   Doesn't matter what he does at some point it will become painfully obvious that he has his head up his fourth point of contact, and he will not listen when you try to warn him off. 

This is usually  where the story ends for most folks.  You go to your separate units and probably never see each other again.  However every once in a while you do go to the same unit as he does.  You try to do the right thing, and warn him of the dangers of getting too wrapped up in this chick, but at some point he exasperatedly exclaims "but I love her".  He will go buy her gifts, and spend every second he can with her while at work.  At this point the only thing you can really do for him is prevent him from spending TOO much money.  Getting his chain of command involved here is a must.  At some point *hopefully* you'll catch him before he marries her, or tries to. 

I know you want to save this troop, but unfortunately you have to learn the hard way, that marrying strippers is not going to work.  Short of finding a woman that will have sex with him, this is a train wreck that you just cant stop.  Just remember that at one point you were there too. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why is it Dangerous to Play Politcs with the Military Budget?

This weekend I attended the 2012 Milblog Conference put on by, and one thing that one of the distinguished visitors, Representative Forbes (R-Va) left me with was: "don't talk about sequestration, no one knows what it is. . . even Representatives eyes glaze over when you talk about it."  That really stuck with me.  So. . . no Sequestration.  But how do I describe the looming Budget cuts?  The words "slash and let bleed out" come to mind, but really how can you make people understand just how bad cutting $1 Trillion out of the DOD budget for the next ten years really is?  I mean you can not educe panic in the average citizen unless you bring it home for them, and how do you bring home something that is about as alien to them as Spock playing 3D chess?

So here's some facts.  The Army and Marine Corps have been at war for 10 years.  To a lesser extent so have the Air Force and Navy, but those two services have already had their budgets heavily curtailed to the point that commands that weren't directly related to the battles in Iraq or Afghanistan were flat out ignored.  Air Mobility Command was vital, so it got all it wanted, but the Tactical Fighter Wings that weren't involved in direct CAS (Close Air Support) or the strategic Bombers, were lagging or ignored.  It got so bad that the AF had to ground its entire fleet of certain airframes (F-15 and A-10's) because planes were literally cracking up and falling out of the sky.  To get back in on the action they invested heavily in Drones which in itself presents a lot of problems from a doctrine point of view.

The Navy isn't doing much better.  The new Virginia class Subs aren't coming out fast enough to replace the old 688's (Los Angeles class) that are being decommissioned, this will lead to a point where the US might conceivably only have 15-20 Subs on patrol in the entire pacific.  I don't know if you've noticed but its a big ocean.  To keep up with demand they will need to stay out longer, which will increase stress on the equipment and men.  But more than that, we have no Cruisers to replace the Ticonderoga classes that are being decommissioned, and there are no new frigates to replace the Perry class.  It looks like for the time being our fleet may revolve around two ships, the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer and the Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier.  There's simply nothing in the pipeline, or in sufficient numbers to step up and fill the gap.  All this is without talking about the fact that the strike range of said carriers was reduced when they got rid of the A-6 and S-3 Viking and used the F-18 for mid air refueling.  Those Hornets suck up a lot of gas.  The Navy got so desperate for a piece of the pie that at one point they were sending Sailors to Ft Riley to train as MTT advisers, or even infantry roles.   One Admiral seriously floated the idea of "Naval Infantry".  You do realize that's what the Marine Corps is supposed to be, right?

And what of the Army and Marine Corps.  We've gotten huge boosts in our funds over the last ten years, even fielded some new vehicles.  We should be happy right. . . well actually no.  Believe it or not the Ground Combat components of the DoD have if anything fared worse than our more strategic brethren.  First off the Marine Corps is still using Helicopters from Vietnam, if that doesn't rattle you, think about the AAV, that big tank looking thing that they use to assault beaches.  Did you know that anything larger than 7.62 goes through that like tissue paper?  The one vehicle they had that looked like it could replace that, and do all the things a Bradley could do plus anphib assaults was. . . cancelled.  Indeed while the Marines are usually neck deep in some very bad situations, they are also usually having to Maguyver their way out of it. The one good thing that the Marines have gotten in the past decade, the Osprey, has its own problems.  For one thing, when operating with Rotary wing aircraft, the needs of Deconfliction (keeping the Aircraft separate so they don't collide) is a logistical nightmare.  The abilities of the Osprey are so vastly different from rotary wing aircraft that it is difficult to support them.  This is of course not talking about the long awaited arrival of the F-3-B which keeps getting pushed back.

The Army had to wait almost 4 years to get MRAPs, and even those aren't really a solution.  They actually present as many problems as they report to fix, because they simply can't go some places the HMMWV could.  The Stryker was supposed to be a bridge between what we have now and the FCS brigades we were supposed to start training on in 2010, then 2013 then 2015, now most of the systems are cancelled, even though some of the prototypes were actually built.

Quick quiz, how many Bradleys and Abrams are there in Afghanistan?  To my knowledge there is one tank company for the Marine Corps in southern Afghanistan.  No Brads are in country.  Even if there were, Insurgents have been ripping through them with IEDs so easily, that they're almost as bad as the old Sherman Tanks (the "purple heart boxes").  What stuff we do have, has been broken by the strain ten years of war has put on it.  This is, of course, saying nothing of the Airframes.  We have a new helicopter, the Lakota. . . which can't be deployed to combat.  Gee that really helps us.  I'm sure it seemed like a good idea in the wake of Katrina, but really what are you going to do about the Blackhawks and Apaches that have been flying around almost non-stop for the past 10 years?  

With all that in mind, and in mind the fact that we are still neck deep in a war against an Insurgent enemy that hasn't gone away, that is still trying to fly planes into buildings or use explosive briefs, one would think that it would be a good idea to keep a strong military.  If anything a resurgent China, that is looking for a way, anyway really to control its people, and prevent populist movements spells trouble.  Such repressive governments always use war as a means of controlling their people.  Have I forgotten to mention a possible regional Nuclear Arms Race in the Arabian Peninsula, and a Nuclear armed (and belligerent) N. Korea?  There is no "peace dividend" here.  This is America staring down a lot of really bad possibilities and trying to take an easy out.

There is an old saying: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want."  If these cuts do go through, you will essentially force the Army to cut back on training and personnel.  When we do go to war again, we won't be ready, and the support we will get from the Air Force and Navy will be questionable at best.  I would urge you to read about the initial phases of the War of 1812, the first Battle of Bull Run, or if you want more recent go read the Guadalcanal Diaries, or read up on Task Force Smith, or the Chosin Reservoir.  All are great examples of poorly trained and equipped American (and Union) troops being outgunned, outmaneuvered, and then torn to pieces.  The Army and Marine Corps need at least a decade of peace to recover, something I doubt they'll get, and the Navy and Air Force need a miracle of funding to get us ready for the next war.   

I want to leave you with this thought.  General George S. Patton Jr said "A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood."  With these cuts we are saving ourselves the sweat of trying to find a politically uncomfortable place to cut money to make up the massive deficits we've wracked up.  Our political leaders can claim a victory of sorts, and no one seems to really get hurt.  Sure over 1.5 million Defense sector jobs will vanish overnight and perhaps half a million Service Members will get the pink slip, but we don't have to think about cutting money from pet projects, pork spending, or all the programs we know will get votes.  The politicians will save this sweat for themselves.  The price tag will be buckets of blood left God alone knows where by young Americans, with hallow victories or bitter defeats to show for it.  Who exactly are you saving with these cuts?

Milbloggies and the 2012 Milblog Conferance.

For those not in the know I was invited by Rob from the Rhino Den, to go to the Milblog awards, hosted by, and Sponsored by USAA and GM (which was really pushing its military discount).  I got a lot of free stuff, and took away a lot of things that I really hadn't considered.  Now I'm in a bit of an awkward situation because I met some folks that are doing good works and I REALLY want to plug their stuff, but having met Uncle J, and the "sell outs" at youserved, I think to myself: what the hell can I say or do that would make a difference.  Did I forget to mention meeting Col Meghee an actual real live Tuskegee airman, was so freaking awesome I thought my head would explode.  I might have gotten into it with an MSNBC reporter, then while at the Carpool, I meet up with John Lilya from This Ain't Hell and got to use my Medic powers again.  Though all I really did was take vitals, I got a free drink out of it so I must've done something good. 

Also I want to congratulate all the winners from the best blogs of the year.

 Best U.S. Army Blog; The Rhino Den
Best U.S. Military Spouse Blog; **Wife [Widow] of a Wounded Marine**
Best U.S. Military Parent Blog; Semper Fi Parents
Best U.S. Military Supporter Blog; Character Does Matter
Best U.S. Marine Corps Blog; One Marine’s View
Best U.S. Navy Blog; USNI Blog
Best U.S. Coast Guard Blog; Ryan Erickson
Best U.S. Air Force Blog; Aim High Erin
Best U.S. Military Veteran Blog; You Served
Best U.S. Reporter Blog; The Unknown Soldiers

    Kelly and Rob accepting the Best Army Milbog award.

Since I've done some pieces for them and they are in the technical "boss" column I won't show any of the embarrassing poses they took with the award. . . Yet. 

To be clear I am, remain, and will probably always be a nobody in the milblog community.  I can write a good line and occasionally turn a good phrase but as for having actual impact, that I'm not so sure about.  What am I going to write about?  Getting the shaft from the army and Chaptered for PTSD then getting denied a PTSD claim from the VA.  Ok yea, but really thats such a common story who would care or listen.  I hate people that bitch and gripe, and to be honest I'm already at 40%, anymore and I think I really will be a broke dick.  I got up for some of the panelists, asked a few questions, some were good, some were craptastic, but people seemed to respond to what I had to say.  But again what real impact can I have?  As I pointed out in an earlier post Veterans are a rare breed.

Well for one I can tell the people coming in the things they need to know.  Here there was why do I feel the need to plug them?  well as we all know moving your family is hard and when you come on post you don't know the good areas or schools.  Having an at a glance reference is good for families.  There was also the Travis Manion Foundation.  I was absolutely humbled by the story behind the foundation, and the idea that these guys are all about inspiring people.  Its a time in our country we desperately need inspiration, and these guys are really out front trying to give the youth something to aspire to. 

I met so many people got so many business cards that I haven't even really had a chance to go through them all.  Hell I haven't even sorted out all the goodies in the goodie bags that were laid out for us.  So over the next few weeks (cuz I actually have a job I have to do much as I may *at times* loathe it) I'm going to go over them, try to talk to folks about things I feel might become important, maybe, just maybe I might learn some tricks of the trade so I'm more of a trout in a really large lake next time around.  I will be writing about everything I experienced there in the next day or so.  Stay tuned.  Same bat time, same bat channel.   

 Matt Gallagher (left) and Tom Tarantino from IAVA

 Rep. Forbes of the House Armed Services committee came to address us.  I asked him about the draft his answer was simple and strait forward "we can't afford a draft".  

Someone's head got in the way just as I was taking the picture.  drat.

Scott Waugh who Directed Act of Valor.  Gotta tell you meeting this guy, shooting the shit with him, and listening to him talk about filming was AWESOME.   

 Still trying to figure out that red eye.

And now for some sights of DC:
 Amazing how many people wanted to see Mr Lincoln.

I didn't go up.  Crowds aren't my thing.  

 I've always liked the Korean War Memorial there's something even more touching about it now that I've been to combat

 The Washington Monument seen from the "pacific" side of the WWII memorial.

 The Atlantic Side.

 I'll always have a soft spot for medics past present and future.

The Big Red One memorial

Its actually spitting distance away from the White House.  That's the Old Executive building behind it.  

I actually was not prepared for how emotional it was to see this, and to have the spirit of "victory" look down upon me.  I wanted to touch it, but sadly it was blocked off.  Nuts.  

you can just barely make it out but that is a BIG Red One made of flowers.  

 Congress Critter?  No probably a lobbyist he was looking for a handout.

 Off to solve another issue. 

 North Lawn.  Gotta say, up close and personal. . . its actually a lot smaller than I had imagined.

 What day in Washington would be complete without Crazies.   

 Or Occupy.  I was close to loosing my cool on this chick.  Absolutely clueless.

 Actually DU has already gone through one half life, that's why its called "depleted" Believe it or not the DU has a much reduced half life than U-238 (if I remember my chemistry right)

 No more troops. . . riiiiggghhhttt.  No Obama's working on that one.

 You can see a Palestinian Rock in the background.  Cuz they're like so much more peaceful than Israel. 

 Since 1981.  Obviously what you're doing is working.  Keep it up!  ha ha ha ha.

 A pink Stretch Escalade.  I want to say "Only in Washington" but I'm  sure its in NYC SF and LA.

Anywho comments questions concerns?  Leave them, I'm going to crash.