Afghanistan: Just another face of the War

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Editor’s Note:  The following story is provided by the spouse of a brave servicemember serving in Afghanistan.  While SFTT focuses primarily on essential combat equipment and protective gear to safeguard our troops, it appears that our troops can’t even find the basic necessities at reasonable prices in Afghanistan.  We hope this is the exception, but we suspect not.

QUOTE

My husband is in the military and just recently deployed to Afghanistan, unfortunately his Battalion is stationed at Camp Holland which has austier living conditions and the shopping facilities have yet to be built. They do have local shops owned and operated by Afghan nationals but the prices are ridiculous, a mere lip palm is $4.00 and $9.00 for a no name brand shampoo. This unit has about 300 soldiers and I simply can not get enough packages out there on my own to help everyone, I am sending two to three care packages a week but I need help and since the american facilities will not be built for another 3 or 4 months I want to spread the word and get this unit help.

 

Can you imagine having do live without shampoo, soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, lotion, toilet paper, wipes, simple things that we take for granted each day. Our soldiers are there because it is their job to protect and serve, they have left behind families and loved ones to protect the very freedoms many people take for granted and then for them to have to live like this breaks my heart. I will gladly take up a collection and mail it or below is the address to my husband and he will disburse it and ensure every soldier gets some. I am working on getting a list of addresses for everyone but that is taking some time. My first step was to send out a request to all of my contacts and then I will reach out to organizations that are there for such things as well.

 

 

MSG Rodriguez, Hipolito

HHC 4-70 AR

Camp Holland, FOB Tarin Kowt

APO AE 09380

 

dehoyos.rodriguez@us.army.mil

hiprod1@gmail.com

UNQUOTE

Readers of SFTT who would like to submit their own stories, simply add your story to Share-a-Story.

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US military withdrawal from Afghanistan battle zone

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The New York Times reported today that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.”

The Times claims that “at least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks . . . and many times more have been wounded, often severely. Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “‘People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

Indeed!  The “compelling” rationale according to US officials is that  “the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance; those forces could be deployed in other areas; and there are not enough troops to win decisively in the Pech Valley in any case.”

Can’t the same be said for the entire war effort in Afghanistan?  Let’s face it, the US is spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan and have suffered 1,483 fatalities with 6,588 wounded in a war that many consider un-winnable.   And how about the tens of thousands of vets suffering TBI and PTSD?   The aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be with us for many more years as our brave heroes recover from the violent effects IED attacks against a ground army that was not provided adequate protective gear.  It is not surprising that over 96% of those wounded are US Army personnel (includes Army Reserves) and the Marines.   It’s the grunt on the ground that is most exposed to the horrors of war.

I do not know if the war is “winnable” or not.  The appropriate question is: “Is it worth it?”  I seem to recall reading an article by Admiral Rickover in which he argued that we use a country’s GNP (gross national product) to determine its political and strategic importance to the United States.   While geo-political and social purists may object to basing one’s political policy on economic relevance, common sense and our huge budget deficits dictate otherwise (let alone the blood and suffering of our young men and women serving in Afghanistan).

Specifically, examine the following three Arab countries in the news today:

  • Afghanistan:    GNP $31 billion, Population 30 million;
  • Egypt:             GNP $445 billion, Population 81 million; 
  • Libya:              GNP $162 billion, Population 6 million.

In the case of Egypt (a country where US aid is only $1.5 billion a year), Egyptian citizens from all walks of life brought down the dictatorship with the benign intervention of the military and very little direct influence by the United States.  Things are certainly more violent in Libya, but the same result can be expected.   While the future is uncertain in both of these countries, the situation is Afghanistan is clear:  the US will continue to prop up a corrupt and largely ineffective Karzai government.   

The question that must be asked:  Wouldn’t the US do better allocating our scarce resources to help shape geo-political events in Egypt and Libya, countries that have more strategic relevance to our country.  Keeping our powder dry – to use a Revolutionary War term – certainly seems far better and far less expensive than having our brave heroes provide police and security services in Afghanistan.  You be the judge.

Richard W. May

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Budget Cuts and the DoD’s Priorities

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The Secretary of Defense has proposed cutting $78 Billion out of the DoD budget over five years.   That’s $78 Billion, or less than $20 Billion a year.  Are you kidding me — why even bother with such a miniscule amount?   Anyone with even a brief, passing knowledge of the DoD over the last 2 decades has to be amused that the national media has viewed this proposal as a “substantial cut.” With an enormous DoD budget that exceeds THREE QUARTERS of a TRILLION DOLLARS a year, a reduction of $20 Billion a year is almost a rounding error!

After the first Gulf War (Desert Storm) the DoD budget was less than $350 Billion per year. It is now over $830 Billion per year.  When you deduct the cost of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, DoD still spends over $549 Billion per year.  What justifies this level of spending, after you deduct war costs?  Answer – No one can rationally justify it.  Let’s consider what we’re getting for our Defense budget:

First — you are not going to find anything being spent on procuring better “troop” gear.  That ship has sailed, as Congress’ wire brushing of the DoD procurement brass during the early stages of the Iraq War for their utter incompetence in providing adequate numbers and quality of body armor, armored vehicles and HUMVEE armor upgrades, a better fitting helmet, etc. ran its course.  By 2007, the DoD, Army and Marine procurement weenies had successfully scurried to get the troops what they should have had before we kicked off the Iraq War.  In the process, they got Congress off their backs.  They have since retreated into their normal state: disinterest in things for the troops; high interest in big dollar programs.

Now — Let’s look at what DoD’s funding.

The Army, having spent almost two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars on the Future Combat System (FCS) and produced nothing deployable – or even useful – other than an engine, has been cancelled.  It has been reborn and been renamed, I think for the second time in eighteen months, and is now called the “Brigade Something or Other.”  Same focus, though, a “family of networked vehicle systems.”  Can you say son-of-FCS?   Will they ring a bell when they spend their first hundred billion dollars?  Who knows, but mind my words, any time a Service addresses anything that is wrapped in wording as a “Family of XXX” needs to be viewed as a program that doesn’t know what it wants to develop; has no earthly idea what the “Family” will cost, or what will constitute a success.   Think of it as a corporate annuity plan to feed the greed and thirst of the military industrial complex with more of your tax dollars!

The Air Force now wants to develop a new manned bomber.  To do what?  Since we can put a missile’s warhead into a 55 gallon drum from thousands of miles away, why – pray tell – do we need another manned bomber?  Isn’t our $2 Billion per copy B-2 good enough?  Is the $750 Million per copy B-1 inadequate?  The $800 Million per copy F-117 Stealth Aircraft is somehow unusable?  The B-52’s are still flying after almost 60 years of service, and seem to be upgradeable forever.  What is it that these manned bombers, our ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and our unmanned UAV systems cannot do that justifies throwing money away after another manned bomber?  Beats me.  But hey, they’re the Air Force.  These are the same guys that gave us the F-22, which at $400 million a copy, this high speed, low drag “air dominance” miracle machine cannot deploy into “an electrically contaminated environment,”  like over Iraq or Afghanistan.  Doesn’t matter to the Air Force, they want more of them.  Oh yeah, they also want a thousand of their variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, rapidly gaining on the F-22 in the cost overrun sweepstakes.  I find it remarkable that the best fighters the Air Force and Navy still get their hat and ass handed to them in Red Flag and Top Gun Exercises by fighter bombers built in the 1960’s: updated A-4’s and F-5’s.  Hey guys, it’s the ordnance and avionics, not the airframe.  But what do I know.

The Navy’s and Marines’ procurement priorities need no explanations.  They are unexplainable. At best they are an enigma, at worst they are a rip-off of the taxpayer. No one with an IQ greater than half their body temperature can make sense of why the Navy wants to buy what it wants to buy.  For example, even though no aircraft carrier (CV) has been successful in avoiding being sunk by day two in any force-on-force exercise in the past few decades, we are still buying nuclear powered CVs at $20 Billion each, counting their air wing’s aircraft.  Yet, the adversary that routinely sinks them, a diesel submarine, similar to the subs on loan from one of our NATO allies, has not appeared in a Navy budget request in almost 50 years.  Probably because diesel boats just aren’t sexy enough and would be tantamount to admitting that our CV’s are vulnerable.  Why should we buy an inexpensive diesel submarine, when we can spend $3 Billion on a nuclear powered Virginia class submarine, instead?

We’re deeply into the enigma area when the Navy articulates their rationale for the buy of ten Littoral Combat Ships (LCs) of two very different designs, from two different manufacturers.  When the Navy is arguing against buying amphibious class ships to land Marine forces on hostile shores, they claim that the threat to these ships from shore launched high velocity missiles so severe that it will require the amphibious ships to operate at least 100 miles from the shore, or risk being sunk.  Ok, I get that.  BUT – the LCS class ships are specifically justified for operations within the “littoral,” that sea zone well inside the 100 mile threat that the Navy paints as too deadly for Navy ships. The LCS case gets even less credible when you note that the Navy has not requested any funding for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-air warfare (AAW), or any other “mission modules” that the Navy says will make the LCS useful.  This folly is comparable to a fire department buying a fire truck without buying its ladders, hoses, or pumps.  The Navy seems to believe that spending a mere $7 Billion for ten nice LCS hulls, but no mission modules, is wise.  An enigma or a rip-off? You tell me. It’s just money.

The Marines finally cancelled their Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), an armored landing craft designed to move Marines from ship to shore at high speed, and then provide them with an armored fighting vehicle when ashore.  The Marines spent almost 17 years and $14 Billion trying to make this pig fly in the ship-to-shore phase. If the threat to the amphibious ships, from which the EFV is to deploy, does require them to operate beyond the 100 mile mark from the shore, the EFV couldn’t carry enough fuel to get from ship to shore, and still carry Marines.  The Marines are now going to fund the search for the son-of-EFV. If 20 years couldn’t get the EFV to be mission ready, the Marines won’t find a suitable replacement in this decade.  Hey guys, save the money from the son-of-EFV search, and look at buying smaller, commercial hovercraft to ferry Marine vehicles from ship-to-shore, and to upgrade or replace the fighting vehicles the Marines use once ashore.

Lastly, if DoD wants to cut their big spending beyond what I noted above, consider the following:

  • DoD should order the Navy and Air Force to reduce their uniformed and civilian personnel numbers by 5% each year for the next 5 years.
  • DoD should order each of their DoD agencies to reduce their uniformed and civilian personnel numbers by 5% each year for the next 5 years.
  • DoD should order each Service and each DoD agency to cut 10% of their 2011 budget allocation for the following year, each year for three years; For example:  The Army will only get 90% of their 2011 allocation as their 2012 funding; 90% of their 2012 allocation for 2013 , etc.
  • Order each Service and each DoD agency to submit in 60 days their list, in detail, of what programs they want to reallocate money from or to to make up for the 10% funding deduction in 2012.  Budget submissions for 2013 and 2014 must reflect these reduced allocations when submitted in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Only then will we see what is really “essential,” and what is just “wanted.”

Col. Jim Magee, USMC (Ret.)

Jim Magee is a retired Marine infantry colonel and a combat veteran with extensive experience in special operations, intelligence and acquisitions. He commanded the first Marine Corps light armored vehicle battalion, and after retiring headed the design team for the Interceptor Body Armor system. He has held a wide variety of senior positions in the defense industry, and continues to serve as a consultant to companies in both the US and allied nations.

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Stand For The Troops

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Soldiers For The Truth has become Stand For The Troops. Our new name reflects exactly what we do on behalf of all concerned  Americans—stand for the troops—and more specifically, stand for our frontline troops, our young heroes who stand tall for us and our country out at the tip of the spear.   

 Our mission remains the same: to ensure that America’s frontline troops get the best available personal combat gear and protective equipment, including body armor and helmets. In fact, the military has been testing helmet sensors in Afghanistan for well over two years to evaluate the effect of IED attacks on our troops while the attacks continue to escalate with little being done to provide our warriors with more adequate head protection.   The sorry result is a near epidemic of troops suffering from traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) and post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) from their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

While senior military officials acknowledge that PTSD is a serious and growing problem, diagnosis and treatment remains disjointed, not to mention that admitting to the disorder on record seem to be a career stopper.  Meanwhile new stories break daily about veterans taking their own lives or behaving erratically despite desperate pleas by the families, friends and fellow service members to the chain of command for more easily available, more effective treatment. 

As part of Stand For The Troops’ expanded mission, we’re mobilizing a task force of eminent medical professionals to evaluate existing PTSD treatment within the military and general communities so that a comprehensive, targeted, more effective treatment protocol can be established and offered for the benefit of our warriors. For too long the military has allowed frontline troops to resume active duty while suffering from this debilitating condition—all too often resulting in devastating consequences for both our brave warriors and their loved ones.  

 We as citizens have a responsibility to Stand For The Troops and not allow PTSD—and TBI—to be the legacy of the war in Afghanistan.

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J.D. Salinger and PTSD

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J.D. Salinger BiographyIn a fascinating book review in the  New York Times last Sunday,  Jay McInerney writes extensively on a new biography on the reclusive J.D. Salinger entitled J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski.   This iconic author, best known for Catcher in the Rye, was a transformational author who did much to goad the thinking of young men and women growing up in fifties and sixties.  What was unknown to me, was Mr. Salinger’s military service during World War II.

From Mr. McInerney’s perspective,” the great achievement of Slawenski’s biography is its evocation of the horror of Salinger’s wartime experience. Despite Salinger’s reticence, Sla­wenski admirably retraces his movements and recreates the savage battles, the grueling marches and frozen bivouacs of Salinger’s war. It’s hard to think of an American writer who had more combat experience. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Slawenski reports that of the 3,080 members of Salinger’s regiment who landed with him on June 6, 1944, only 1,130 survived three weeks later. Then, when the 12th Infantry Regiment tried to take the swampy, labyrinthine Hürtgen Forest, in what proved to be a huge military blunder, the statistics were even more horrific. After reinforcement, ‘of the original 3,080 regimental soldiers who went into Hürtgen, only 563 were left.’ Salinger escaped the deadly quagmire of Hürtgen just in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and shortly thereafter, in 1945, participated in the liberation of Dachau. ‘You could live a lifetime,’ he later told his daughter, ‘and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose.’”

It is hard to imagine a more harrowing battlefield experience and the devastating impact of War on those around him.   Mr. McInerney goes on to write that  by “July (1945)  he checked himself into a hospital for treatment of what we would now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder. In a letter to Hemingway, whom he’d met at the Ritz bar shortly after the liberation of Paris, he wrote that he’d been ‘in an almost constant state of despondency.’  He would later allude to that experience in ‘For Esmé — With Love and Squalor.’ Readers are left to imagine the horrors between the time that Sergeant X, stationed in Devon, England, meets Esmé and her brother, Charles, two war orphans, and the time that Esmé’s letter reaches him in Bavaria a year later, after he has suffered a nervous breakdown.'”

Certainly, it is cause for reflection that we are only just now beginning to understand the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Furthermore, judging from the numerous reports circulating within military circles, we appear to have a growing epidemic of psychological and nerological disorders with little evidence of an “effective” solution on the horizon.  I fear that the “unintended consequences” of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be with us for many years as brave young men and women who have served on those battlefields return with PTSD.  How we insure these brave heroes receive proper care and treatment will say much about our society.

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B.E.S.T. is Back

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B.E.S.T. is Back

On April 6th,  B.E.S.T. Greenwich will be holding an April in Paris event at Saks  Fifth Avenue in downtown Greenwich.  Saks has generously agreed to donate 10% of sales on that day to Stand for the Troops, a 501 (c)(3) charitable foundation designed to make sure that our troops have the best protective gear and combat equipment available.  Join us for April in Paris and learn how you can Stand For The Troops who uphold our freedoms.

April in Paris

Celebrate Spring at an Evening of French Style,

Complimentary Makeovers and a Special Fashion Show

Saks Fifth Avenue is proud to donate 10% of the day’s sales

to Stand For The Troops’ B.E.S.T.

Wednesday April 6, 6:30-8:30

205 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich CT

Purchase your tickets now – $50 per person – and Stand For The Troops



 

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Corruption in Afghanistan: Greed is more powerful than ideology

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In a fascinating article by Carl Thompson, published by IDGA (Institute for Defense and Government Advancement) entitled that is thwarting our progress in Afghanistan.   Found below are examples cited by Mr. Thompson of rampant corruption across all elements of Afghan society.

  • We had ANA (Afghan National Army) and the Ford Rangers that were given to them were missing the spare tires and jacks. All spare tires and jacks were gone in every company.
  • New fuel pumps were taken off of the trucks and sold in downtown Kabul. An old fuel pump was brought back in and put on the truck.
  • The Battalion Maintenance Officer had failed to list 3 of the older Ford Rangers on the vehicle list. They were at his relatives houses.
  • Tools were taken from the maintenance shop out of the brand new #1 Common tool set
  • The battalion S4 drove 3 hours out to the field to steal cases of MREs.
  • Kickbacks were given from any project back to the local officials, ANP or the ANA. And who got them caused fights.
  • Fuel trucks arrived with half of what fuel was bought. The Brigade Commander had relatives who owned gas stations.
  • Soldiers would sell their TA50 (issue equipment) downtown for money.
  • The BDE warehouses would load trucks full of equipment and sell it downtown.
  • Whole sections of ANP (Afghan National Police) were not paid because the sub-governor kept their pay for himself. After 3 months the ANP quit.
  • ANP consistently shake down or extort the local people for money because that is all they really know.
  • Citizens have to pay bribes to government officials for VISAs to travel abroad.

Mr. Thompson goes on to state that “the list of corrupt practices within the Afghan society is astounding. The impact of how this mindset effects getting operations done on the ground cannot be underestimated. There are two basic ways that people get things done when working together. Americans are operating in one mindset and the Afghans are operating in the other. We need to better understand the cultural mindset of the country we are operating in or we will continue to fail as we operate in it.”

To illustrate the dilemma faced by US forces in Afghanistan, Mr. Thompson states that ‘the ANA command will siphon off all of the material that they can before it ever gets into the hands of the soldiers that need it. The Americans need the Afghans to fight. In order to do that, we have to work on the logistics aspect of getting the ANA soldiers the supplies they need. This means a large number of US soldiers shifted from combat-type missions to support and guarding type missions.”    If effect, the Afghanistan military we are supposed to be training is simply selling off equipment for personal gain and frustrating efforts to train and equip an effective domestic military force. 

Mr. Thompson argues that the Afghanistan National Police (ANP) should arrest people selling stolen military equipment in open-air markets in Kabul that “makes us lose face and look incompetent to the very people we are trying to influence.”  He goes on to argue that “the American military needs address this (corruption) aggressively. Our image and prestige with the people of Afghanistan is what will win. Building a stable democracy with a solid and effective government should be our goal. It starts with getting the basic functions of government to deliver services to the people. The first place we should be able to set the example is the military.”

While I applaud Mr. Thompson’s recommendation, I suspect that ingrained cultural and societal differences will be so difficult to overcome that it is a battle that cannot be won.  And even if we are successful, have we really won the hearts and minds of the people? 

The protracted ground war in Afghanistan is sapping the vitality of the brave young men and women serving in harm’s way.  With a $2 billion a week price tag and the hardships and sacrifices may by our military and their families, one must ask:  Is the United States in Afghanistan to fight terrorists or police institutional corruption?

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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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Afghanistan: “The Right Side of History”

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As the current political events unfold in Egypt, I have often heard the actually mean?  Clearly,  decisions the US administration makes today can’t influence the past or “history” since those events have already occurred.   While US government pronouncements can certainly influence  future relations with “new” governments, it remains to be seen whether the US will be seen to have been on the “right” or “wrong” side of history as that role will largely determined by historians.   And with our penchant to re-write or spin historical events and finger-pointing, it is unlikely that all will be able to agree whether the US was on the “right,” “wrong,” or even the “incidental” side of history.

As the demonstrations in Egypt are broadcast around the world, one can’t help but draw comparisons to the current “political” situation in Afghanistan.   More than 100,000 US troops are deployed in Afghanistan providing security services for an administration that is totally corrupt and appears to have lost the support of the people  it represents.    Imagine what would happen if a small group of reformists in Afghanistan would begin to mobilize its citizens with the same strategies used so effectively in Egypt.   How would the US administration respond to insure that we are on “the right side of history” in Afghanistan?    Could we really pull the plug with so much political, military and human capital invested in this venture?

As far as I can conclude, the only “foreign invader” of Afghanistan on the “right side of history” was Alexander the Great.   He quickly decided it wasn’t worth the effort to spill the blood of his army or the fiercely independent tribes that populated the region at the time.  He moved on to India where greater spoils awaited him.

There are many who make courageous decisions in the face of truly terrifying circumstances or overwhelming popular opposition.   Franklin Roosevelt springs to mind for his decisions to support the British with the “lend lease” program and to allow the British intelligence services to operate out of Rockefeller Center long before we entered the war.   Two-thirds of Americans were opposed to our intervention in the European land war shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.   I believe that President Roosevelt make the “right” decision and he probably made that decision without having ever given a thought to whether historians would place him on the “right side of history.”

Is Twitter-democracy the best way to confront entrenched dictators and religious extremists?  I don’t know the answer, but certainly the events in Tunisia and Egypt are  cause for reflection.  Having citizens stand up and demand their freedoms is certainly far better for their self-esteem and long-term well-being than having our brave young men and women provide a security blanket for corrupt governments.

I am hopeful that our government and military officials will make the “right” and “proper” decisions by studying history and evaluating the risk-return benefits of military engagement rather than posturing for posterity.   Let the historians determine whether our decisions were “right” or “wrong.”  True leadership requires courage and conviction.

Richard W. May

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Military News Highlights: February 2, 2011

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Losses at Afghan Bank Could Be $900 Million

“Fraud and mismanagement at Afghanistan’s largest bank have resulted in potential losses of as much as $900 million — three times previous estimates — heightening concerns that the bank could collapse and trigger a broad financial panic in Afghanistan, according to American, European and Afghan officials.”

The missing $900 million and the zero-balance payroll for Afghan security forces, just might be the “Tunisian” type spark to engulf Karzai and Kabul.

And if anyone is wondering if the “illiterate Afghan” can tweet or Facebook, check this out:

Arab world transfixed by Egyptian protests

Why does this matter?  You know, the potential and likely domino falling effect of autocratic governments throughout the Middle East, sparked by Tunisia, and now engulfing Egypt?

A simplistic strategic calculus would find that US military capabilities and deterrence options are stretched to the breaking point already.  And while it is too early to say how this will eventually play out throughout the arc of instability; what we can agree to is that the US mission, role, and security in the region just got decidedly more difficult.

Lest we forget that the US continues to provide the bulk of Multinational Forces and Observers supporting the Sinai mission.  Currently there are 440 National Guard troops assisting in this mission.

Stryker unit’s early arrival in Afghanistan means Germany brigade coming home early

Bravado and Beethoven!

“The enemy left southern Afghanistan because we kicked his ass out,” Colonel Blackburn,  told the town hall meeting. “All over southern Afghanistan, you will find Dragoons with their foot on the throat of the enemy.”

Colonel Blackburn showed an aerial film, accompanied by Beethoven, that recorded the last moments of an insurgent leader before he disappeared in a cloud of smoke from an air-strike.

“Dragoons are doing that all over southern Afghanistan,” Blackburn said.

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