Military News Highlights – Week of March 20, 2016

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Found below are several news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Better than a War on Drugs
Pendulums are made to swing from one side to the other. So it is for the prescribing pendulum for narcotic analgesics in the U.S. today. For decades, until the 1990s, doctors were closed fisted about prescribing pain medications, with little basis for that approach other than an American tendency to puritanical attitudes towards drugs. The result was that far too many people, including those with severe, intractable pain, suffered needlessly.   Read more . . .

Prescription Drugs Targeted by PTSD

Is the Glock Pistol the Next Military Sidearm?
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.  Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.  Read more . . .

The Military is from Mars, Civilians are from Venus
We’ve attended many meetings where it felt like the military personnel were from Mars and the civilians were from Venus: part of the same solar system, but from planets with vastly different landscapes and languages. And we knew many of our friends and colleagues who had also shared this far-too-common experience.   Read more . .  .

LZ Grace:  A Place to Heal
Lynnette Bukowski discusses LZ Grace Warriors Retreat.  Lynnette, and many volunteers, have transformed a 38 acre farm in Virginia Beach into a place for members of the special operations community and first responders to decompress and recharge. Lynnette shares the story of her husband, a Navy SEAL, and discusses some of the unique challenges the she faces in supporting who are accustomed to serving, and often suffering, in silence.   Read more . . .


VA Programs Caregivers May Not Know About
Roughly 5.5 million people serve as caregivers for veteran family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lesser known benefit for these family members. Known as Caregiver Support Services, these benefits aim to help family members who are tasked with the primary care of a disabled veteran. The services available include access to a caregiver support line, support coordinator, peer support for caregivers, adult day health care centers, and home care, among other things.  Read more . . .

A War Correspondent’s Trouble with PTSD
The war was changing me, hardening me. I felt flashes of pure rage when someone ran into me on the basketball court or cut me off on the road. I chose tables at restaurants that were as far from the front doors and windows as possible, in case a bomb went off outside. I would wake up whenever there was a sound in my bedroom and then be unable to fall back asleep. In some of my dreams, loved ones died. In some, I did. I had full-blown PTSD.   Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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Absentee Leadership in DC and Afghanistan: Frankly ma’am, I don’t give a damn!

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In an enlightening article on the current lack of leadership in DC and the killing fields of Afghanistan,  Leslie H. Gelb reports on the opening of a new medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland (near DC)  to treat active-duty soldiers and veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological disorders. Unfortunately, this article is not about the brave men and women and their families who were on hand for the innauguration of this long overdue facility, but about those who chose not to attend.  I quote at length from Mr. Gelb’s eye-opening article published in the Daily Beast:

“It was inauguration day for the nation’s most modern facility for the treatment of active-duty soldiers and veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological disorders—5,000 of them with families on hand. At the podium in Bethesda, Maryland, stood Arnold Fisher, the chief fundraiser for this precious center that may need to care for hundreds of thousands of victims, searching in vain for one White House official, one Cabinet officer, one member of the Joint Chiefs, one senator. He found none. And he asked again and again, ‘Where are they?’

“‘You are injured,’ Fisher said. ‘We are all here. Where are they?’

“Where were they? President Obama was in meetings and having a hamburger lunch with Russian President Medvedev. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also at these meetings, though not at the hamburger shop in Virginia. Michelle Obama, who has made caring for military families one of her top priorities, couldn’t make it; she was said to have given her final “no” at the last minute. She was accompanying Mrs. Medvedev on a visit to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in D.C., where they watched a dance performance. Vice President Joe Biden also met with Russians and with Israelis. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent his deputy William Lynn III. All four Joint Chiefs sent their deputies. General Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, couldn’t make it. Not one among the legions of pro- and antiwar hooting senators could find the time. Only two members of the House of Representatives found their way to the ceremony.”

“But there was Fisher at the podium. A corporal in the Korean War, Fisher is now a successful real-estate developer, builder, and philanthropist. He avoids confrontation and the limelight, but he could not suppress his dismay about the absences that inaugural day. ‘Here we are in the nation’s capital, the seat of our government, the very people who decide your fate, the people who send you out to protect our freedoms. And yet, where are they?’  he asked the attendees. ‘And while we appreciate that much of our military leadership is present, our government should be behind this effort,’ he continued. ‘I know these are difficult times. I read newspapers. I see the news. And still, where are they? They call you out. You are injured. We are all here. Where are they?'”

Indeed, “Where are they?”   Where are the leaders with the conviction, integrity and proper sense of values that would not take the time to reach-out and honor those who have given so much for our country?  Our leaders and media assail the Chairman of BP when he refers to the “little people” of Louisiana, but what message does it send to our troops and their families when a hamburger photo-op with Russian President Medvedev is more important to our Commander in Chief than attending the innauguration to salute our heroes.  In fact, both Russia and the US have spilled blood in Afghanistan and it might have served a useful purpose if both Presidents had attended to reflect on the consequences of sending  young men and women to war.

It would appear that these brave heroes are treated as little more than disposable assets to further  foreign or military policy goals that few can articulate and even fewer understand.   Surely, our troops deserve better.  Let’s give our troops the leadership they deserve or, perhaps, those desk-bound military and civilian “leaders” should just pull a Clark Gable and tell grieving mothers:  “Frankly ma’am, I don’t give a damn!”

Richard W. May
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Does New War Doctrine Expose US Troops to greater danger?

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With a 2,600 page Health Reform Package, one doesn’t have time to read the fine print.  At other times, US government policy statements are often so broad in scope that one has difficulty piecing together the implications.

In a recent address that was not picked up by the press,  Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated what some consider to be a change in US War Doctrine.  In a fascinating article picked up by Fred Edwards in Crosshairs – Miltary Matters in Review, Mr. Edwards notes that Admiral Mullen may be laying out a new War Doctrine for the United States.  Mr. Edwards  notes that Admiral Mullen is suggesting/proposing the following:

  • In future wars, the United States must use measured and precise military strikes, and not overwhelming force. 
  • Policymakers should consider the use of military force not as a last resort solution in a crisis, but as part of an early response to a conflict or a natural disaster.
  • Military forces are some of the most flexible and adaptable tools available to policymakers. Before a shot is even fired, we can bolster a diplomatic argument, support a friend or deter an enemy.”

I certainly agree with Mr. Edwards, that under this doctrine, military commanders (and political leaders) certainly have a lot more leeway in determining what a “precise” rather than an “overwhelming” strike might be.   With military leaders now asking our troops to leave their protective gear behind to befriend civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, it certainly appears that Admiral Mullen’s new War Doctrine is already in practice.

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US Needs Military Leaders Who Make Waves

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Was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the only one in the Pentagon that helped propel the American war in Iraq into disaster? While many have also pointed fingers at the White House, there are more profound sources of the problems. Congress should look deeper, such as at the three- and four-star Army commanders, who have much to explain. Straus Military Reform Project  Adviser Col. Douglas Macgregor (U.S. Army, Ret.) explains in a commentary published by Defense News this week. This commentary by Douglas Macgregor was originally published by Defense News on Nov. 13, 2006.

By Douglas Macgregor

Iraq is disintegrating to the point where the Bush administration can no longer conceal the truth that American ground forces are islands of impotence in a sea of sectarian violence and civil war.  In fact, the climate of hatred against Americans cultivated by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and his division commanders, generals who transformed a minor insurgency in the summer of 2003 into an Arab rebellion against the American military presence in April 2004, has now spread to the Shiite south.

How did this happen? In his book, “Fiasco,” Tom Ricks explains that generals steeped in a military culture that exalts masses of men and firepower used a meat cleaver when a scalpel was needed — a strategic catastrophe from which American policy in Iraq has never recovered.  At the center of this tragedy stands Gen. John Abizaid, presented three years ago to the American public as the general fluent in Arabic with the perfect military resume.

Years of sterling service in the light infantry of the peacetime garrison Army earned Abizaid universal approval from the influential community of retired four stars, the men who selected all of the generals commanding in Iraq since the war began. For the Bush defense team, he seemed like the perfect choice.  Yet, when Abizaid took command in the summer of 2003, he did nothing to change the destructive pattern of raids, checkpoints and intrusive patrols, actions that created far more enemies among the Arabs than they killed or incarcerated. 

His response to the shameful revelation of Abu Ghraib was tepid. Sanchez and his generals escaped accountability. When Fallujah exploded in April of 2004, providing Abizaid with a tailor-made opportunity to dominate the enemy psychologically, Abizaid advised inaction.  Then, in the summer of 2004, in an unprecedented move, another four-star general, George Casey, was assigned to command in Iraq, effectively giving Abizaid political cover. Still in overall command, Abizaid could either deny responsibility or claim credit, depending on changing conditions.

To date, other than holding seminars on Arab culture for visiting members of Congress and the administration, it’s hard to know what decisive action Abizaid has taken. Insisting that Americans allegedly win all the battles despite the daily U.S. death toll, and, in 2006, that Iraq is on the verge of civil war are patronizing statements of the obvious. What can be said of Abizaid is that he is an intelligent, hard-working person, anxious not to offend anyone, especially his superiors. And therein lies the problem.

Frustrated with generals who were unable to win a single battle in the first years of World War II, Britain’s Winston Churchill wrote angrily to the chief of the Imperial General Staff, “We must not confine appointments to high command to men whose careers have excited no hostile comment.”  Churchill knew his defeated generals were amiable men who made no waves. Eventually, he axed most of them and Britain’s situation changed.

Unfortunately, during the Vietnam War, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara did not embrace Churchill’s philosophy. Taking the generals provided by the military’s system of cronyism, Johnson and McNamara simply elevated the most sycophantic officers to four-stars, men willing to be media props for their civilian masters in return for further promotion and reward in lucrative civilian jobs after retirement.

Sadly, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chose the path of Johnson and McNamara, and that has made all the difference.  Tactical blunders have strategic consequences and the generals have blundered badly in Iraq. In war, military strategy is supposed to reduce the probability of armed conflict, to persuade those who might fight not to fight, and when necessary, to win at the least cost in lives and treasure. In Iraq, the top generals achieved the opposite outcome.

Democrats, celebrating their control of Congress, should be thorough and judicious in their investigations of why the military occupation of Iraq has gone so terribly wrong.  They should question the accepted wisdom of the retired and active four stars that flooding Muslim Arab Iraq with hundreds of thousands of Christian Europeans in U.S. and U.K. uniform would somehow have salvaged the disastrous decision to govern Iraq with American soldiers and Marines.And they should embrace the critical need for military reform to establish a professional system of general officer selection that rewards character, competence and intelligence, not just compliance with bad ideas in return for promotion.

But whatever the Democrats do, they should reject the current schoolboy excuse we hear from active and retired generals that “Rumsfeld made me do it.”  Douglas Macgregor is a retired U.S. Army colonel, decorated combat veteran and author of books on military reform.  He writes for the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, Washington. Author(s): Col. (Ret.) Douglas A. Macgregor, USA

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