December 31, 2004

TRASH HEAP

Bunker wrote about the notion that the military is "society's trash heap", and I only have one thing to add. Having taught four sections of college English, I can say that the soldiers in my classes are just like students in any other classes. There are those who work hard, those who make excuses, and those who simply don't show up. I have had numerous non-native speakers who have taken my class and excelled because they worked hard to improve the English that they barely had learned by basic training. I have had students whose foundations have really impressed me; they must have worked hard in high school. And I've also had students who don't want to think for themselves and call me every time a paper is due to ask me what they should write. I believe that's the same cross section as I had when I taught at University of Illinois, and I imagine it's the same for any class anywhere.

The one difference I see is when my students write their narrative paper on one incident in their lives that has made them who they are today. That's when things start to get serious. By and large, my students have overcome extreme obstacles to get to this point in their lives, far more so than my college friends or I have. They've survived gang shootings, jail sentences, IEDs, domestic abuse, immigration without being able to speak English, combat deaths of their friends, and extreme poverty to get to where they are today. Most are grateful to have been given the opportunity to be in college, and they take nothing for granted. They've worked hard to get where they are, far harder than most of my peers in college.

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December 28, 2004

THE P-WORD

It's common knowledge around here that I completely don't trust polls. Even ones that say things I want to hear. I certainly put no stock whatsoever in polls that say there's a 51-49% split, but I'm tempted to at least check out polls that report 60, 66, or 87% findings. I'll check them out, but they're still worth a grain of salt, because I think that people say what they think others want to hear and they consistently choose "fair" or "agree" as the default (I do this all the time when I have no strong feelings either way). So with skepticism in mind, I checked out the Military Times Poll (via Power Line).

Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, and 60 percent remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. And support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.

The soldier I spent Christmas with -- who just re-enlisted -- said that when he first deployed, he thought going to Iraq was a pretty dumb idea. After being there, he says he now sees why it is important.

In addition, despite the pressures of a wartime military, 87 percent said they’re satisfied with their jobs and, given the choice today, only 25 percent said they would leave the service.

The only soldier I know who might get out wants to do so because he's like an athlete who quits after Olympic gold: after being in Fallujah, there's nothing that could keep him satisfied. I'll give you one guess which lovable thrillseeker I'm talking about.

I know this poll has received arched eyebrows because it was mostly answered by career military, but they are the people I am most concerned about. To be honest, the views of the guy who only joined for the college benefits don't matter to me nearly as much as the ones who plan to stick around and see this fight through. I care about the 58% of those who said they're re-enlisting/extending because of "patriotism". They're the ones who are going to make sure the war in Iraq is a success.


(The last time I wrote about a poll, vitriolic nutjobs came out of the woodwork to defend the poll's findings and call me hateful names because I said that a poll with 1230 respondents and a margin of error +/- 3% might not be accurate of the population. (Which I said because the questions were ridiculously loaded, and as it turns out, the poll skewed heavily Democrat.) Let's see if those same people -- those who liked the results of that poll -- come back to tell me that I should indeed listen to the results of this poll with 1,423 respondents, +/- 2.6%. I won't hold my breath.)

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December 27, 2004

OUR FRIDGES

I bet you can all guess what happened when a blogger tried to buy toy guns for his sons for Christmas. Think he could find any?

My friend and I were laughing the other day while I was looking at her refrigerator. She has several photos on display of her husband in Iraq, and she also has some drawings magneted up there -- I guess her husband mails home pictures he drew and then her two sons color them in. What I laughingly pointed out was how odd it would look in a non-military family to have a fridge covered in photos of Dad with his M16 and colored drawings of a soldier manning a 50cal in a HMMWV or a jet dropping bombs on buildings. But to us, those kinds of things are completely normal. My friend turned to her four year old son and asked him, "What's Daddy's job?" He gleefully replied, "Soldier!" They decided it was the coolest job a Daddy could have.

I don't have any kids to scar, but my fridge still bears my husband's zero target from the day he shot expert. I think it's awful cute.

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December 23, 2004

COMING TO A SPHERE NEAR YOU

1 Blog...

10 Veterans...

and millions of uninformed Civilians.

This could get ugly.

launch.jpg

The battle begins January 1, 2005

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December 21, 2004

HAVE YOURSELF A HOOAH CHRISTMAS

The 1ID website has got the only holiday video you'll see that contains both toy distribution and explosions. Check it out.

I am leaving to take two friends to the airport, so I'll be out of blogging range for two days. More when I return.

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December 19, 2004

DEBT PAID

Until Amritas put me on the spot, I didn't know the full details of Charles Jenkins' desertion. (Remember he's the guy who was in North Korea for almost forty years and just turned himself in.) When I first heard the gist of the story, I thought he was despicable, but now I believe he's paid the price for his choice.

Jenkins' unit, he had learned, was scheduled to ship out soon to the live war in Vietnam, a prospect that terrified him. "I did not want to be responsible for the lives of other soldiers under me," he said during his court-martial trial last month. So Jenkins looked for a way out. He could confess his cowardice to superiors and accept the consequences or attempt somehow to flee. He chose the latter option.

He should have chosen the former. When you sign up for the military, you'd better be prepared for the worst assignment possible in exchange for that precious GI Bill. You don't get to pick and choose with the military -- as Paredes and Hinzman believe they can -- so if you break that contract you signed, you go to jail. You don't try to flee. That said, Jenkins paid dearly for his error in judgement, working as a slave to the North Korean government for 40 years, and turned himself in willingly at the first chance he could find.

He would plead guilty only to desertion and aiding the enemy (for the time he spent teaching English). In exchange, his penalty would be a maximum 30 days' confinement, a demotion to private, forfeiture of all pay and benefits and a dishonorable discharge. Military-law experts assume Jenkins won this relatively lenient treatment in exchange for providing intelligence about North Korean spy programs. Neither Jenkins nor the U.S. government will comment on any such discussions.

Jenkins has paid his debt to the military and to society, and he has likely suffered far more than if he'd stayed in the Army a few more years. His slate is clean in my book. Hinzman, on the other hand, has far more 'splainin' to do.

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December 17, 2004

FRIENDLY

Last week, Annika -- a cool blogger whose themes include poetry and ripping on Britney Spears -- interviewed me via instant messenger. She just tidied up the conversation and posted it on her blog. I think I sound like a huge tool, but I bet that's pretty representative of my real personality: I probably sound like that to everyone. Anyway, if you're interested in hearing me yabber for an hour, check out Chicks Dig Tanks over at Annika's.

Annika and I touched briefly on Pat Tillman, a segment I would like to expand. I seriously didn't hear about the friendly fire until last week. I think the phrase "friendly fire" is is one of the worst things I can think of. I'd rather pretend it doesn't exist, but Tillman's death forced me to imagine the possibility.

2Slick wrote a long and detailed post on the anger the Tillman family feels, the "Army cover-up", and his thoughts on the matter. If you're interested at all in the subject, I highly recommend reading it. I think 2Slick summed up the crux of the controversy, at least for me:

There's a reason why the men involved refused to talk about the incident with the WaPo reporter. It makes them sick. Every single day. It's the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning, and it's the last thing they think about when they go to bed at night. [...] But no amount of punishment could ever compare to the stomach-grinding guilt that these officers and soldiers will live with every single day of their lives. Please forgive the Army officials for not wanting to string these people up and administer public floggings.

Every now and then, I offer the same generic, sing-songy disclaimer: I have never been in the Army, I speak as a civilian, 75% of what I know comes from my husband, the other 25% comes from movies, etc, etc, etc. That said, I would like to return to the movie Courage Under Fire, which I mentioned twice was the reason I married my husband. I've been told that this movie is pretty emotionally accurate, and when I read 2Slick's post, I kept thinking about Denzel's character. He tortures himself throughout the whole movie for the friendly fire death he caused. In the end, the soldier's family says it's easy to forgive him, but now he has to learn to forgive himself.

One night right after CPT Sims was killed, I had a dream I was a soldier clearing buildings in Iraq. I shot someone who came rushing in the door and then realized he was an American. I woke up with the worst feeling imaginable, and that was just a dream. The guilt I felt based on a dream was so horrible that I can't begin to imagine the guilt of reality.

When your husband is deployed, you can't help but mentally plan for tragedy. I don't know if anything we mentally plan would actually hold up to reality, but we unconsciously work our way through various scenarios so that they're not uncharted territory should they ever come up. Last Wednesday I had to work my way through a mental friendly fire death. That was harder than anything I've imagined so far. But I know that it wouldn't be nearly as hard for me as it would be for the soldier who fired the round. That's how you would forgive something like that.

2Slick is right: there are only victims in a friendly fire, not villains. Is that the way anyone wants their soldier to go out? Hell, no. Is that the way Pat Tillman should've gone out? Not a chance. But I think I can honestly say that I would have an easier time dealing with being the family member than with being the soldier who shot America's hero.

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December 16, 2004

LUCKY

Man, how come I don't live in Hanau?

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December 15, 2004

RED 6

prak.jpg

1LT Neal Prakash from Albany, New York, a tank platoon leader with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor, fires an AT-4 shoulder-fired rocket into a building in eastern Fallujah Nov. 10 after receiving fire from the site during Operation al-Fajr (New Dawn).

Compliments of the 1ID website, pointed out by an observant mother-in-law.

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ROTATION

The OEF and OIF 2005 troop rotations are in the paper today.

And Gunner Palace is opening in theaters. Naturally, I won't be able to see it. First Team America, then Gunner Palace. But by golly we can't live without showing Christmas with the Kranks.

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December 14, 2004

HA

What's the answer to this comment?

I Understand you[r] explanation, but I think you are missing the point we (the angry at Rumsfeld) are trying to make. When the head of the Armed forces says, "You go to war with the Army you have, not the one you might want," and the timing of that war was determined by that man, it is a disrespect to the troops who are over there fighting and dying. It was Rumsfeld's responsibility to have the "Army we want" before going to war. The Pentagon ignored the Army War College's analysis of the course of events. All of this was predicted before we invaded. If Rumsfeld was not so arrogant, maybe these guys would not be asking these questions. "Even tanks get blown up," is NOT and adequate answer and it disrespects every man and woman over there. If he was in the private sector, he would have been thrown out on his ass a long time ago. You can respect the presidents decision to go to war, but you cannot respect our troops AND respect the way Rumsfeld runs things. He has been incompetent from the start and if you have friends or family over there, you should be as pissed as I am... just my two cents worth.

Rebel Rouser has the answer, complete with colorful language and plenty of punchlines. I read every last word of his answer; you should too.

And apparently he wrote Military Classes for Civilian Dumbasses first, which is just as good.

I like this guy. Reminds me of Deskmerc.

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REQUEST

I have a friend who works at AFN radio, so I requested "American Solider" for SPC Mahlenbrock. They can't play it at 1900, but they're going to play it earlier in the day and explain why they're playing it. We're doing our part here in Bavaria to honor SPC Mahlenbrock's last request.

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PHILOSOPHY

Last night I had a dream that my husband and I were reading blogs together. What an exciting life, huh? Anyway, in the dream my husband got up to go to the bathroom, and I thought of something I wanted to say to him. I woke up and thought to myself that I would tell him when he returned from the bathroom. Then I had the slow realization that he wasn't in the bathroom.

We hit the 300th day last week. And I found today that my deployment philosophy is the same as Major Phelps':

I continually tell myself and I wholeheartedly believe that if we as a country can confront terrorism and rouge nation-states that support terrorist acts and if we can bring peace, hope, freedoms, and democracy to a country in the heart of the Middle East while at the same time solidifying the security, freedom, and liberties of this great nation then my sacrifice is inconsequential. If I am asked to partake in some small way to accomplish this goal then I say take me before my four sons are confronted with this problem in 20 years and they are forced to clean up a problem that has only festered, become increasingly worse and a problem that we should have confronted twenty years earlier. We are doing the right thing, and America needs to stand united and reaffirm to themselves every now and then that we are in fact doing the right thing. I think I'm a free minded thinker, and I'm not "brainwashed" by the President, Mr. Rumsfield, or some "right wing propaganda conspiracy theory." I really think we're attempting to accomplish something monumental. I guess we'll see.

I don't mind being left alone for a cause this important.

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December 13, 2004

COOL

I don't see it happening any time soon, but this uniform is pretty freaking cool. Of course, I had a crush on Robocop when I was a kid...

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December 12, 2004

UP-ARMOR

Some soldier perspective on the question posed to Sec. Rumsfeld the other day:

Deskmerc
Greyhawk + follow-up
A Line in the Sand
2Slick + follow-up

And from my favorite reservist:

Sarah,

I've started writing about armor on vehicles quite a few times only to cancel it. We just can't get into the details without violating OPSEC (Operational Security). I can't tell you why that works without revealing details that can be of use to our enemies. I especially can't talk about the downsides either.

The first IED I ever saw took out an 18-wheeler in front of me. It blew the cab on to the left side of the road while the trailer careened off to the right. At the time, I was riding in an unarmored Humvee without doors.

I went to Fallujah in a Humvee with canvas doors.

I hunkered behind a "frankenstein" scrap metal door in Najaf as bullets bounced off.

With all that and more, I'm not sure it really makes all that much of a difference. When I look at the trade offs with what is truly gained, I really don't know. I do know that many soldiers now and before us went into Harm's Way with less ~ am I or any other soldier any more special?

One thing I have truly come to believe, if its your time - it's your time. I don't care if you're wrapped in armor while sitting in a bunker, if it's your time then you're a goner. So with that in mind, does it really make that much of a difference?

I round 'em up, you decide.

MORE TO GROK:

More on armor above.

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December 04, 2004

DEPLOYMENT MATH

When I went to hear Gen. Hertling speak the other night, one of the things he and his wife said was that the last few days of the deployment are the hardest, that the time between when the Soldiers get to Kuwait and the time they actually get home can feel like an eternity. Granted, I haven't made it that far, but I think the time we're going through right now is the hardest. We're at our nine/ten month range. We know things are completely up in the air right now, especially with the Iraqi elections. We know that 1AD got extended, so we're certain it could happen to us too. Rumors about return dates are flying all over the place, and no one really knows where the finish line is. Back in July, that stuff didn't matter, but as we get closer to the end, we all wonder when exactly the end will come. And how exactly the math is calculated...

One detail that irked family members about the extension [of 66th Trans out of K-town] is that it does not start until Jan. 31, 2005 — a week after the company’s one-year anniversary at Forward Operating Base Speicher.

“What they’re doing now, they’re saying, ‘You came in January, the end of January is your time,’” Sowers said. “They would say the one year mark is 31 January, that’s the math that they’re using downrange.”

So 365 days isn't a year. OK. I know that will make lots of wives really angry, but it doesn't bother me. I'd just like to know that it's happening. As long as I feel we're being updated, I'm cool. But I sure think that this leg of the deployment is the hardest. I personally will be thrilled when he gets to Kuwait, because it's the not knowing that is the worst for me.

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December 02, 2004

GULP

Heartwrenching photos from CPT Sims' funeral.

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December 01, 2004

NOT LOST

The Iraq Page: Remembering Those who Lost Their Lives in the Iraq War of 2003
Thousand lost lives grab our attention
Soldier remembered for life transformed, then lost

Tonight I heard Brig. Gen. Hertling of 7th ATC say something I won't soon forget: Our soldiers have not lost their lives in Iraq; they have sacrificed their lives for freedom and for their brothers and sisters in arms. That struck me. Their lives were not lost or taken, but instead they have given their lives for something much bigger than themselves. That's a wise statement and a comforting way of looking at the situation. The enemy cannot take that which we have sworn to give so that the tree of liberty may be refreshed.

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