Military News Highlights: February 8, 2011

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Military tries one-stop shop for treatment of concussions

One hundred and sixty thousand troopers have been diagnosed with concussions since 2000.  I bet that is a conservative estimate/data point, given the fact that the stigma of reporting a head-injury and the evolving science of diagnosis.

Nevertheless, there has been three-hundred and ten concussions diagnosed in the past five months at lovely Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.  And for in-camp/intra-theater treatment, naval medical officers have established a “one-stop shop” where you can take your bruised brain, plug in some earthy-Yanni type music, get a 30 minute acupuncture treatment – and, presto, you can go out on patrol again.  Please don’t tell me that the wounded replacement system can’t assign a new Marine or Soldier to an unmanned billet and replace a trooper who was shipped home to heal properly.  Please say that this isn’t so?

A Blood-Stained Rifle, and Questions of the Taliban

Straight from CJ Chivers NYT blog:

“One of the Apache crews saw him with the rifle. Under the rules of engagement that guide when and how American troops can use lethal force, the cyclist was now considered a combatant under arms. This made him a justifiable target. The aircraft opened fire with the chain gun, striking the cyclist in the head. The shooting was now over. By this time an American ground patrol had been ordered to the area to retrieve the Taliban bodies and equipment and carry them back to an American base, where the bodies would later be turned over to villagers. The patrol scoured the fields, gathering the rifles, several hand grenades, Kalashnikov magazines, the broken motorcycles and other items. When the soldiers reached the bicycle, they discovered that the Afghan man on the bicycle was not a man. He was a boy who they estimated was somewhere between the age of 11 and 14. The 30-millimeter round from the Apache had struck his head squarely, killing him instantly.”

You think maybe a little bit of overkill?  An Ah-64 Apache versus a motorcycle with three armed knuckleheads?  Got it that their armed status met the ROE for threat, PID, etc…but, really?  So we’ve (US/NATO) been in Ghazni (Andar district) for the past decade (i.e. Afghan ring road runs straight through it from Kandahar to Kabul, so it’s a no-brainer, gotta have a PRT in Ghazni and have supporting combat troops there to secure it, etc…) and the best we can do is launch an AH-64 against a motorcycle threat with three armed “combatants”? 

Bicycle in Afghanistan

You think we’ve won the hearts and minds of the villagers and elders who report to the FOB to secure the remains of four of its sons? 

Why not allow the aerial platform observe and monitor the motorcycle (and threat) and pinpoint the destination location and call in the Afghan National Security Forces to conduct an operation against them?   You know, build that legitimacy-thingy in their institutions…

And as to the morality of killing a child, the SFTT news team will leave that to the on-scene commander who called in the rotary-wing air support to wrestle with.   

Violence continues in Iraq as US mission changes

Lest we forget that 50,000 US troopers are still in Iraq supporting Operation New Dawn.  Since September 1st 2010, 18 troopers have made the  ultimate sacrifice, 6 during 2011 alone.  While 97 US soldiers have been awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action, including 25 this year alone.

Lest we forget.  The grind continues.

Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta to leave military

Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta announced that he will not re-enlist and leave the Army later this spring. 

Thank you for your service Staff Sergeant Giunta!

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Military News Highlights: January 19, 2011

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Costly coalition plan to recruit thousands more Afghan forces draws concerns

The initial U.S. end strength goal of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by October 2011 is approximately 300,000.  A new plan entails hiring an additional 73,000.  The bill to Uncle Sam is an additional $6 billion with unknown future budget outlays.  But before another shekel is spent, don’t you think we should gauge the quality of the current force and assess capabilities.  You know, take the training wheels off, make sure Kabul maintains its balance, etc, before we add a bell on the handlebar and a basket behind the seat? Did someone in “Happyland” pull out the COIN manual and review “insurgent to counter-insurgent ratios” and realize how underesourced and undermanned NATO/ANSF really is according to doctrine?  And we really can’t afford to cut corners on how many US/NATO grunts we need on the line versus using line units to become trainers for this new batch of recruits, which would further stress out an all-ready stressed out 24-7-365 fighting formation.  Pull out the abacus and do the math – it doesn’t add up.  So why then are we rushing to failure?

On final tour in Iraq, daily grind combines with goodwill missions

Hey trooper, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it there in good old Iraq.  No need to wish to see the elephant in Afghanistan, because things are predictably heating up in Babylon (i.e. everyday suicide bombings, the return of Mookie, and an ever increasing disenfranchisement of the Sunni minority) and you’ll get slapped out of your deployment doldrums here sooner rather than later.  Stay vigilant, especially during 90-minute mind-numbing Power Point presentation.

Bank apologizes for overcharging troops for mortgages

I really don’t make this stuff up – a bank overcharged 4,000 military families for their mortgages.  Not a handful, not a dozen, nor a hundred or two, but 4,000.  Really?

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Military News Highlights: December 21, 2010

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For Brain-Injured Soldiers, Top Quality Care From a Philanthropist, not the Pentagon

The primary health care plan for our active duty force, called TRICARE will not provide “cognitive rehabilitation therapy” (CRT) for treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) because the treatment is “still unproven.”  Project Share, a charity based out of the Shepard Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Injury in Atlanta is singularly focused on assisting brain-damaged soldiers – their efforts, to serve as a model for the Department of Defense and provide CRT as a means to close the gap created by TRICARE and military hospitals that lack the expertise and staff to treat complex TBI injuries, are falling on deaf ears. 

The 2007 ECRI Assessment on Cognitive Rehabilitation for Traumatic Brain Injury report provides specific details on CRT costs and benefits.  CRT is not some hokey-incense burning-meditation protocol – it’s a proven therapy that our servicemembers need access to.

 Admitting that CRT is timely and oftentimes complex, the former Home Depot executive and philanthropist Bernie Marcus and founder of Project Share makes the compelling case that our servicemembers that are grievously wounded and affected by TBI deserve only the best treatment and options.    SFTT agrees!

NATO fails to deliver half of trainers promised for Afghanistan

The trap door out of Afghanistan is supposedly lined with the premise that the Afghan National Security Forces will stand up beginning in 2011 and begin to assume increasingly more security responsibilities – the trap door is the US/NATO exit plan.   But the required effort to make this possible will cost $6 billion per year in perpetuity and require a host of trainers and equipment resources – problem is, that by the end of 2010 NATO can only provide half of the required trainers.  Making matters worse is the ad hoc nature of the training effort and programs and the lack of accountability of ensuring training standards are being met – most startling is that Kabul (NATO) “is still discovering training programs operating around the country that headquarters commanders did not know existed.”   Can you imagine that?  A critical training mission staffed at 50% with a $6 billion tab and training programs that no one knows exists?

 25,000 Soldiers headed to Afghanistan in 2011

 The roster of units deploying to Afghanistan are as follows:

  •  I Corps Headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
  • 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
  • 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
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Military News Highlights: December 10, 2010

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Report: Growing mental health problems in military

Never knew that the Department of Defense publishes a Medical Surveillance report , but even without the findings everyone knows that mental health problems are the number one health issue facing our troops.  That’s a no-brainer. The November report highlighted in this story by CNN points out the fact that mental health issues send male troops to the hospital than any other cause, and are the second highest for hospitalization amongst women troopers. “The Army was relatively most affected (based on lost duty time) by mental disorder-related hospitalizations overall; and in 2009, the loss of manpower to the Army was more than twice that to the Marine Corps and more than three times that to the other Services,” the report says. “The Army has had many more deployers to Afghanistan and Iraq and many more combat-specific casualties; it is not surprising, therefore, that the Army has endured more mental disorder-related casualties and larger manpower losses than the other services.”

 With some patience you can navigate to the MS Report site and review a decades worth of reports – rather startling data.  Consider that there is data that tracks the numbers of deaths (and by cause) within two years after

 Insecurity and Violence Spreads to Northern Afghanistan

Whack-a-mole.  Surge in the south, leave open the north.  Whack-a-mole. Reposition in the north, enemy withdraws south.  Whack-a-mole. NATO has called this “an extreme escalation” of militant activity.  Actually, it’s a simple supply and demand problem and an economy of force issue.  What was once a gunfight that only involved the Afghan provinces in the east to the south in Afghanistan is now a 360 degree fight, where all areas  require more US/NATO forces are evident to the threat and being exploited.  Coupled with criminality and a lackluster Afghan government, the northern (and western) provinces in Afghanistan have become a vacuum for the enemy to operate in with impunity.  Limiting their operations outside of major urban centers the Taliban and their confederates have been able to provide an alternative to the local populace for services, justice, and security, which “allows the instability to spread.”

 Sad to say that the only real option without any operational or strategic effect is to “whack-a-mole”.  In other words hit the enemy wherever and whenever they emerge – problem is, it’s apparent that there are insufficient US/NATO troops to cover and respond to the threat, and Afghan National Security Forces lack the capability to respond in kind as well.

 Following Up: When A Crew Chief Fights With His Rifle

 Warms your heart when you get to read about courage amidst the carnage, especially when these humble acts are by combat medic crew chiefs.

The award recommendation is below:

SGT Grayson Colby, United States Army, distinguished himself by extraordinary courage and dedication to the MEDEVAC mission on 01 June 2010, in support of Regional Combat Team 7 in Regional Command Southwest during Operation Enduring Freedom 10.

While performing MEDEVAC duty at Camp Dwyer, the crew of DUSTOFF 56 (Pilot in Command CW2 Deric Sempsrott, Pilot CPT Matthew Stewart, Crew Chief SGT Colby, and Flight Medic SGT Ian Bugh) conducted MEDEVAC mission 06-01R in central Marjeh. A dismounted patrol of Marines had come under fire, and one Marine was shot in the upper thigh. Within minutes DO56 launched from Camp Dwyer, knowing they were headed for a high threat area. No escort was available due to the multiple troops-in-contact ongoing across Helmand. The Marine would surely die if not evacuated quickly, so the crews acknowledged the risk and were authorized to launch.

As DO56 approached the point of injury, a firefight erupted on three sides of the aircraft. With no aircraft providing cover, the crew continued to the ground without hesitation, determined not to abandon the wounded. Seeing the location from which the friendly forces were engaging the enemy, SGT Bugh and SGT Colby exited the aircraft from the right door where the largest contingent of the Marine patrol was engaging the enemy.

As the two crewmembers egressed from the aircraft, a Marine came out of the tree line in front of them and signaled for them to stay low. SGT Bugh and SGT Colby sprinted 50 meters across the open field toward the Marine’s position where the patrol was locked in an engagement with the enemy. Reaching the raised road where the Marines were taking cover, SGT Bugh found that the unit had no means to transport the injured Marine and returned to the aircraft for a litter. SGT Colby immediately took a defensive position alongside the Marines and began to engage the enemy. With rounds cracking above his head and hitting the dirt around him, SGT Colby returned fire to the muzzle flashes that were approximately 200 to 300 feet in front of him.

When SGT Bugh returned to where SGT Colby was providing covering fire, they bounded as a team down the raised road with the firefight continuing around them. Reaching the wounded Marine, SGT Colby took his place in the line of Marines, replacing one who had left his position to aid his buddy. Again, SGT Colby returned fire with enemy rounds hitting around him. SGT Bugh and three other Marines carried the litter while SGT Colby remained in his position until they were clear of the road. He than followed them down the road providing rear security until reaching the aircraft. With the patient loaded and SGT Bugh and SGT Colby secure, DO56 departed towards Camp Dwyer. Once airborne, SGT Colby assisted SGT Bugh by starting oxygen on the wounded Marine as the aircraft raced back to the Dwyer Role II Hospital. The Marine went through intensive surgery at the hospital prior to being transferred to a higher level of care.

SGT Colby’s disregard for his own safety as he left the security of the aircraft to provide cover for SGT Bugh embodies the Warrior Ethos. His bravery resulted in a Marine’s life being saved. SGT Colby’s actions reflect great credit on himself, TF Shadow, TF Destiny, and the United States Army.

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