SFTT Military News: Highlights for Week Ending Jul 28, 2017

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

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Russia Shows Off Naval Strength in Protest of US Military Exercise with Georgia
US Vice-President Mike Pence will visit this week and is expected to back the plan, which Russia strongly opposes. Georgia and Russia have had fractious relations over two breakaway republics and fought a brief war in 2008. Russia staged its own show of force on Sunday with President Putin joining a naval display in St Petersburg. The US-Georgia military drills, dubbed Noble Partner, involve some 1,600 US and 800 Georgian troops. The US has also deployed M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and M2 Bradley infantry vehicles for the exercises, which will go on until 12 August.  Read more . .

North Korea ICBM

China Bets the House on US Response toward North Korea
China is betting that U.S. President Donald Trump won’t make good on his threats of a military strike against North Korea, with Beijing continuing to provide a lifeline to Kim Jong Un’s regime. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson singled out China and Russia as “economic enablers” of North Korea after Kim on Friday test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile for the second time in a matter of weeks. While Tillerson said the U.S. wants a peaceful resolution to the tensions, the top American general called his South Korean counterpart after the launch to discuss a potential military response.  Read more . . .

The “Noise of War Under” Scrutiny by U.S. Military
U.S. military units have long used technology like night vision goggles to enhance their sense of sight. Now they’re trying to get a battlefield edge with their ears, too. The Marine Corps is experimenting with quieted-down weapons and electronic hearing enhancements that could reshape the soundscape of warfare. They want to minimize some sounds and amplify others to get more control over what they and their enemies hear. About 2,000 Marines have been testing carbines fitted with sound suppressors. The devices have long been used by special operations units, and the Marines want to expand their use into the mainstream infantry.  Read more . . .

Fresh Ideas Needed in Afghanistan?
President Trump is frustrated about the lack of progress in Afghanistan and seems to be skeptical about his military advisors’ proposal for the deployment of up to another 4,000 U.S. trainers, advisors and counter-terrorism forces to join the 8,500 now stationed there. “We’ve been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas,” he told reporters recently.  Read more . . .

House of Representatives Votes Unanimously to Support Veteran Choice Program
The House overwhelmingly approved a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to address a budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs that threatens medical care for thousands of veterans. The bill provides $2.1 billion to continue funding the Veterans Choice program, which allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense. Another $1.8 billion would go to core VA health programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities. The bill was approved 414-0 Friday and now goes to the Senate.  Read more . . .

PTSD Disability Claims Triple in Last Decade
More than one in five veterans receiving federal disability payouts suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a figure that has spiked in the last decade. Veterans Affairs officials told lawmakers Tuesday that the number of disability cases related to PTSD has nearly tripled in that time, from around 345,000 cases in fiscal 2008 to more than 940,000 cases today. Service-connected PTSD payouts now make up 22 percent of all veterans receiving compensation benefits from the department. That includes all age groups, not just veterans from the recent wars. But lawmakers still worry that current VA rules may still be excluding thousands more veterans eligible for the disability payouts, which are tied to injuries suffered during military service.  Read more . . .

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

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops


SFTT News: Week Ending June 23, 2017

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

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Canadian Sniper Hits Target 2 Miles Away
The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 meters,” the force said in an email to NPR.  For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place. The elite sniper was using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq,” the paper reports. “It took under 10 seconds to hit the target.  Read more . . .

Uniform Snafu in Afghanistan Costs US Taxpayers
A watchdog report issued Tuesday in Washington criticized the Defense Department’s spending of nearly $94 million to buy more than 1.3 million uniforms for Afghan military forces between 2008 and early 2017.  The 17-page report, written by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, says the Pentagon overpaid by about 40 percent for uniforms bearing a green woodland camouflage pattern chosen by the Afghan Ministry of Defense from a catalog.  Read more . . .


Russia to Shoot Down US Airplanes in No-Fly Zone Over Syria
Russia has warned that its military will begin targeting U.S. planes in Syria after the U.S. shot down a fighter jet belonging to the Moscow-backed Syrian government. In a statement issued Monday, Russia’s defense ministry announced it had severed a so-called “deconfliction line” previously maintained between Russia and the U.S. in order to avoid accidents occurring between the two armed forces waging separate campaigns against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria. Russia and Iran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has recently made significant gains against insurgents and jihadists nationwide that began claiming territory in 2011, but the U.S.’s anti-ISIS efforts are mostly being carried out via local militants and rebel groups. As ISIS collapses, the U.S. has become eager to secure its influence in Syria against Russia and Iran.  Read more . . .

Secretary Shulkin on VA Accountability Law
Within the first few months of David Shulkin’s tenure as the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, he’s made several big plays: the plan to redesign the Veterans Choice Program, the decision to abandon VistA and adopt the same commercial, off-the-shelf electronic health record as the Defense Department and a promise to close underutilized or vacant VA buildings. “I am not looking for the same old practices and behaviors that led us to where we are now,” he told reporters during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington on June 20. “I am looking for a different type of leadership style from the people in my organization, and inherently, that’s going to be associated with risks, as long as it’s measured and we can determine when and if we need to adjust course on those decisions.”  Read more . . .

Brain size and PTSD Therapy

New Brain Analysis Could Differentiate Brain Injuries
Considering the brain’s network of activity, rather than just individual regions, could help us understand why some brain injuries are much worse than others, according to a study published PLOS Computational Biology by Maxwell B. Wang, Julia Owen, and Pratik Mukherjee from University of California, San Francisco, and Ashish Raj from Weill Cornell Medicine. The displays an astonishing range of responses to injury, depending on its location. This is conventionally considered a result of the fact that each region has a specific functional role. However, there is increasing evidence that the brain’s regions do not operate in isolation but as a network or ‘connectome.’ Therefore, to understand the effect of injury, we must look not just for localized changes but network-wide changes caused by the disruption of network connections.   Read more . . .

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

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops


SFTT News: Highlights for the Week Ending Sep 9, 2016

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Found below are a few 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.

Trump and Clinton

Candidates Trump and Clint Veer from Addressing Veteran Issues
During the hour-long event hosted by NBC’s Matt Lauer, the candidates indeed touched on veterans issues, notably waits for appointments at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and the high number of veterans who die by suicide. But during most of the hour-long event, they focused on other national-security and military matters.   Read more . . .

Unsuccessful Rescue Mission in Afghanistan
U.S. defense officials say that special operations forces launched a rescue mission to retrieve two men kidnapped by insurgents in Afghanistan last month. The hostages were not there when the rescue team arrived.  Read more . . .

North Korea Conducts 5th Nuclear Test
North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in eight months on Friday, raising concerns that Pyongyang has moved a step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.State TV said the atomic detonation — the fifth carried out by Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime — “put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”  Read more . . .

Laser Weaponry on the Horizon?
There’s a technological revolution brewing in warfare. Silent and invisible, it relies on high intensity pulses of light to kill or incapacitate, all at the speed of light. After decades of promises and false starts, lasers are at last finally entering military service. And warfare will never be the same.  Read more . . .

 U.S. to Send More Troops to Iraq to Prepare for Mosul Battle
The United States has increased its forces in Iraq by almost 500 troops in the last week to support the operation to take Mosul from the Islamic State group, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. The increase in personnel and equipment is needed to meet the Iraqi government goal of recapturing Mosul before the end of the year, Col. John Dorrian, the Baghdad-based spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told reporters at the Pentagon.  Read more . . .

Teamwork Key to Preventing Suicides
Staff Sgt. Miguel Sierra vividly recalls himself and his staff handling logistical matters in the aftermath of a sailor committing suicide. As a behavioral specialist and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Health Clinic at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sierra said this experience impressed upon him the importance of teamwork and the need for Soldiers to maintain awareness of signs of distress among their fellow Soldiers.  Read more . . .

Light Therapy in Treating PTSD
After years of studying the effects of near-infrared light on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries, a team led by a University of Texas at Arlington bioengineer has published groundbreaking research in Nature’s Scientific Reports that could result in an effective, long-term treatment for brain disorders. Their research is funded in part by a UT System BRAIN or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies seed grant titled, “Transcranial light therapy and imaging of prefrontal cognition in PTSD.”  Read more . . .

 Georgia Veterans Court Provides Common Sense Rehabilitation Alternative
Nine local veterans recently saved Cobb County taxpayers about $191,610. These four Army veterans, three former Marines, and two Navy vets did not work for free or volunteer their services to a Cobb community organization. Instead the nine veterans, composed of eight men and one woman, successfully completed the 18-month Cobb County Veterans Treatment Court program and avoided potential incarceration. Primarily charged with felonies, these nine veterans easily could have been assigned an inmate number and added to the already bloated census within our Georgia prisons. Or worse, the nine could have become additional statistics in the grim nationwide toll of an estimated 20 veterans who commit suicide daily.  Read more . . .

stealth destroyer

Stealth Destroyer Leaves Bath Iron Works
The largest and most expensive destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy once headed to sea in a snowstorm during trials. Now, it’s heading into the remnants of a tropical storm as it leaves Maine for good. The skipper is watching the weather as the stealthy Zumwalt destroyer prepares to depart from Bath Iron Works on Wednesday en route to its commissioning in Baltimore, and then to its homeport in San Diego. Capt. James Kirk said what’s left of former Hurricane Hermine was creating some strong waves in the North Atlantic, but he said it wouldn’t prevent the ship from departing from the Navy shipbuilder.  Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops


Afghanistan: A Grim Reminder of the Never-Ending War

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In yet another grim reminder of the never-ending war in Afghanistan, a U.S. service member was killed in Helmand province this week after his patrol triggered a roadside bomb. The blast also wounded another American and six Afghan soldiers.


As reported in the Washington Post:

According to a statement released by the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, U.S. troops were accompanying their Afghan counterparts near the province’s capital of Lashkar Gah when their unit came under attack.

“On behalf of all of U.S. Forces — Afghanistan, as well as Resolute Support, our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Despite repeated promises by President Obama to end the war in Afghanistan, this never-ending war continues to drag on as more servicemen continue to die on foreign soil for reasons that many no longer understand.

Afghanistan has been invaded many times, but only Alexander the Great around 330 B.C. had the common sense to bypass this mountainous tribal region to move on to greener pastures.  Sadly, his intelligence and grasp of tribal realities was not as well understood by British, Russian and our U.S. military and political leaders.

As of October 1, 2015, more than 2,200 U.S. military personnel have perished in Afghanistan and over 20,000 have been wounded.

Current estimates suggest that the direct cost of maintaining just under 10,000 troops in Afghanistan is about $20 billion a year.   But with all the subsidies to the corrupt Afghan government, the indirect costs “could easily end up being $3 billion higher and nobody’s going to blink an eye,” according to Doug Ollivant, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

For those who grew up during the Vietnam War, it is difficult to fathom how the U.S. can once again be involved in “nation-building” or simply providing security service for a corrupt and self-serving regime that represents few of the values of a democratic society.

While some may construct an argument that our continued presence in Afghanistan serves as a testament to “American resolve,” it is hard to get one’s head around a war that is now almost 14 years old.

Unlike the Vietnam war, sustained troop deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and other hostile locations in the Middle East seems to be little more than a footnote in this year’s presidential election campaign.

As one who is not privy to the President’s security briefings, it would not be appropriate to second-guess the Commander-in-Chief, but the threats to our national security must be grave if the lives of servicemen (and women) are at risk and we plan to spend $3 billion a year to prop up an ineffective government in Afghanistan.

The deployment of yet another 100 troops to the defense of Lashkar Gah, the capital of embattled Helmand province, is yet another clear sign of instability in the country.  According to Military.com, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, chief spokesman for U.S. commander Army Gen. John Nicolson, the U.S. troops are in a training and advisory role to provide “a new presence to assist the police zone.”

Assuming this is the threat to the stability of the Kabul government, the U.S. “training and advisory” role is likely to continue indefinitely until the U.S. clearly articulates a strategy to either end the war or terminate our presence in Afghanistan.

Continuing to prop up the Afghan police force doesn’t seem to me an appropriate use of our military forces.   The $3 billion allocated to Afghanistan could be used to rebuild our military or help injured Veterans deployed to the Middle East recover their lives.


SFTT News: Week ending Jul 29, 2016

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Found below are a few 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.

High-Tech “Robo” Technology Raises Eyebrows
Israeli defense company Elbit Systems is turning some heads with its robot warship, the Seagull. The unmanned surface vehicle (USV) operates autonomously and is capable of protecting the maritime environment from underwater threats such as mines or submarines. In a military first, the vessel this week successfully fired a lightweight torpedo via its remote Mission Control System (MCS).  Read more . . .

Unmanned US Military Vehicle

Worldwide Military Expenditure Database at a Glance
The core work of the military expenditure project is to collect, analyse, process and publish data on military expenditure worldwide, and to monitor and analyse trends in military expenditure over time, looking at their economic, political and security drivers and their implications for global peace, security and development.  The military expenditure project is fundamentally data driven. At the heart of the project is SIPRI’s unique, freely available, military expenditure database. The database is updated annually, both with new data for the most recent year and with revisions to past data to take account of new information and ensure consistency over time.  Read more . . .

Next Generation Laser Eyewear Protection
Army land warfare experts are ready to kick off an industry competition to develop a new generation of laser-protecting goggles and other eyewear that safeguards soldiers’ eyes from shrapnel, laser beams, sand and dust, and bright sunlight. Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Natick, Mass., issued a presolicitation Wednesday (W911QY-16-R-0043) for the Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) project. Army officials say they plan to award one or more one-year contracts to develop prototype protective eyewear.  Read more . . .

Five U.S. Military Personnel Injured in Afghanistan
Five U.S. special operations members were wounded while working with Afghan special forces in an operation to clear areas controlled by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday. Army General John Nicholson said two of the injured service members have returned to duty, while three others were evacuated but are “in good spirits” and are expected to make a full recovery, he said.  Read more . . .

special forces

Purge of Turkish Military after Unsuccessful Coup
Now, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wages a widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees, the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited. Nearly half of the top generals and admirals have been jailed or dismissed and thousands of foot soldiers charged. More than 1,500 officers were dishonorably discharged this week in advance of a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ankara on Thursday, where leaders were expected to consider a broader restructuring of the military.  Read more . . .

Memorial to Honor Vets Who Lost to PTSD
A unique memorial is planned to commemorate military veterans who have lost their battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to suicide. The Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall, to be erected in Channahon State Park, outside Chicago, will also serve as a national reminder of all those who suffer the invisible but potentially devastating mental and emotional wounds of war.  Read more . . .

Review of “The Fractured Republic” Helps to Understand VA Scandal
Since the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs first broke in 2014—leading to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki—a public debate has been simmering over what, exactly, should be done to fix the VA. This debate is fundamentally a good thing. In a political system such as ours, debate is crucially important to addressing problems, and few problems are so grave and morally meaningful to a national community as how its veterans are treated. Policy details matter, and most participants in the debate are sincere in their positions and seeking to do right by veterans.   Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.


PTSD: The Emperor has no clothes

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My dad, a retired Air Force officer, used to tell me as a kid that “If you don’t have anything smart to say, keep your mouth shut.”  Now I don’t always follow this advice, but I do think that society would be better served if we kept disingenuous chatter to a minimum.  Sadly, it would seem that our leaders – both civilian and in the military – are unable to keep their mouths shut when they have little to contribute to intelligent debate.  The TV show that comes to mind is “Lie to Me.”

In a stupefying assertion that is either delusional or simply a lie, Gen. David M. Rodriguez the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, reportedly said that “he’s confident in the Army’s ability to screen and treat these signature medical conditions (“PTSD” and “TBI”) from the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan – ‘we’re not perfect,’  but getting better.”

Gen. Rodriguez also stated that “Lewis-McChord is similar to other U.S. military bases in the proportion of soldiers who have seen heavy combat, served on multiple deployments and suffered conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Nevertheless, he failed to have comparative numbers readily available.  As the video clip below suggests, he asserts that those on the base should not be concerned about their safety.

Now I have no idea if Lewis-McChord has a higher incidence of “problems” than other bases in the US, but apparently neither does Gen. Rodriguez.  Why engage in meaningless “happy talk” when most everyone realizes we have a problem of  epidemic proportions of young men and women suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD?

The tragedy is not that 1 in 5 brave warriors suffers from PTSD, but the silly assertion by Gen. Rodriguez that he’s “confident in the Army’s ability to screen and treat these signature medical conditions (“PTSD” and “TBI”).”   I am sorry Gen. Rodriguez, but you must have been one of the mindless sycophants standing on the sideline applauding a naked Emperor if you believe that spin text.

Stand for the Troops (“SFTT”) knows of no competent authority that believes that we are anywhere close to being able to effectively treat PTSD on a large scale.  As long as our military leaders remain in denial, our brave service members will not receive the treatment they deserve.  Effective leadership is saying, “Houston, we have a problem!”

The tragic massacre in Afghanistan is a wake-up call to take action.  Let’s not sweep it under the rug and let thousands of brave warriors continue to deal with the debilitating effects of PTSD on their own.   The choice is rather simple:  Deal with causes now or deal with the tragic effects later.   It’s a huge task, but it should start with a small child along the parade route saying in a loud voice, “The Emperor has no clothes.”

Richard W. May


VA Care for Patients with PTSD

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As military service members deployed in Iraq begin come home, the alarm bells are beginning to sound as the Veterans Administration (“VA”)  now seems over-stretched to deal with alarming number of cases of service members with PTSD.

According to a recently published Rand study, excerpts of which are reported  by Health Affairs, “There is a large and growing population of veterans with severe and complex general medical, mental, and substance use disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, PTSD, and major depression. Substance use disorders may occur alone or in combination with any of these other diagnoses. Over the five-year study period, the population of veterans with mental and substance use disorders grew by 38.5 percent, with the largest growth occurring in veterans receiving care for PTSD. Half of the veterans with mental and substance use disorders also had a serious medical disorder. Study veterans also accounted for a much larger proportion of health care use and costs than their representation among all veterans receiving VA health care. “

The sad reality is that this report is based on statistics compiled by Rand for 2007 and, as such, the severity of the problem is likely to be far greater for veterans with additional deployments past 2007.

As Jason Ukman of the Washington Post reports, “the cost of medical care for veterans is expected to skyrocket in coming years.”   According to sources referred to by Mr. Ukman, “The number of veterans seeking mental health services has increased sharply. Last year, more than 1.2 million veterans were treated by the VA for mental health problems. In fiscal year 2004, the figure was roughly 654,000. The largest increase has been among veterans diagnosed with PTSD.”

The severity of this problem is already taxing over-stretched VA resources and is likely to increase as  troops in combat zones return home.  How we deal with these troubled warriors will say much about our military and political leadership.


PTSD: The Unintended Consequence of War

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Almost daily, we receive reports of the devastating impact of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) on our men and women in uniform and the terrible side-effects on their families and friends.   The US Army is aware of the terrible cost of PTSD as evidenced by the 2010 US Army Report on Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention.

Many publications suggest that the origins of PTSD are unknown as evidenced by this recent commentary from a government organization: 

“The cause of PTSD is unknown, but psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved. PTSD changes the body’s response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters). Having been exposed to trauma in the past may increase the risk of PTSD.”

While this may be true, there does appears to be a clear linkage between PTSD and the effects of increasing IED (improvised explosive devices) attacks on US and Allied military forces serving in Afghanistan.   While many believe that PTSD is a psychosomatic discorder, it is becoming increasingly clear that concussion-like head injuries are contributing to PTSD and its debilitating physical and mental consequences.    The US Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that between 11% and 20% of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan may have PTSD.   If so, this is an alarming number – almost of epidemic proportions.

SFTT has long argued that ill-fitting military combat helmets afforded little protection to our men and women in uniform.  The US Army has been painfully aware of this problem for sometime as evidenced by their decision some years ago to implant sensors in helmets to track trauma related injuries.    Recently, we have been told that a “simple tweak” in the amount of padding in combat helmets would reduce head trauma injuries by 24%.    Why did it take so long to realize we had a serious problem?  More importantly, how long will it take our procurement process to get better protective gear to our troops in the field.


Sebastian Junger on Afghanistan

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The editor and writer, James Heidenry, talks to Sebastian Junger about his recent book, our troops.


What was the genesis for War?

Well, in 1996 I was asked to write a magazine story about some westerners who were kidnapped in Kashmir. They’d been kidnapped by former Mujahideen who continued training in Bin Laden’s camps. I said I’d do the assignment if I could go to Afghanistan to report on the broader problem. That was my first trip and I just kept going. Then I wanted to see what it’s like to be a soldier in the U.S. military.

How much time did you spend there?

I did five one-month trips with the platoon.

What was your take on the civilian population in Afghanistan?

When I was there in 2001 after the Taliban was tackled it was extremely positive, but a lot of goodwill was squandered by some pretty bad decisions. By the time I went back in 2007, the Afghan perspective was that it was only a matter of time until the U.S. pulled out—so they weren’t going to stick their necks out and get themselves killed.

What do you think of the gear the troops have?

If there is one complaint it’s the amount of stuff they have to carry. They are pretty loaded down and stuff just keeps getting added and the vests they wear are really heavy. They talk a lot about how it would be a different fight if they were more mobile. The Taliban probably moves 8 to 10 times faster than America soldiers. Basically it’s a naval battle where the U.S. is a sailboat and the Taliban are speedboats. Our troops have incredible firepower. They just cannot move, they literally cannot run.

How much gear are we talking about?

On multi-day operations each soldier was carrying upwards to 150 – 160 lbs, and on a regular patrol needed 100 – 120lbs just to leave the wire. Soldiers under all that weight break their ankles, their knees go. I mean they lost more guys in the platoon to broken ankles than they did to bullets.

What kind of trauma care do they get on the ground?

The medics were great. My friend Tim broke his leg and got taken out of there by Medevac. The army surgeon put a plate in his leg and did a superb job—Tim’s doctor back home was really impressed.

Col. Hackworth thought that generals too often got in the way of the men on the ground. What was your impression of the chain of command in Afghanistan?

The captain in my platoon would not have complained to me about the generals. So it’s hard for me to assess that. But I do know that the guys thought it was hysterical that the brigade commander had this sort of directive that the outpost wasn’t allowed any real tools. It was a matter of definition on paper, like “We don’t want that kind of outpost there.” But the guys were like, “It’s a 15-man outpost and we need to live somewhere.” So they ended up having to cut plywood with one guy’s Leatherman saw. The rule and the reality were not corresponding.

What did you learn from writing War?

You always hear about the sort of group bonding that happens in war and I had never really understood it until I was around it. It was somewhat of a collective experience, a shared fate. And even though I wasn’t a solider, whatever was happening to them was going to happen to me. And there was something about that which was extremely reassuring and calming. As a result—bad as it was out there—when the guys came back to the base, they all kind of missed it. There is sort of a weird question that society has trouble confronting, which is when men come back from war, why do they miss it? But it is an important one because it impedes. If the soldiers are missing something it impedes their ability to reintegrate, and if society can figure out what they’re missing it will be that much easier to reincorporate them. You can’t just say they’re adrenaline junkies now. This is not what it is. There are actually good, psychologically healthy things that they miss. My book is essentially trying to answer that question: What is it they miss?

Is it a brotherhood?

Yeah, that kind of brotherhood is a function of the danger they are all in. As a result it cannot exist back home because there is not that danger in society. That brotherhood is a very secure thing to belong to and it’s very hard to give up. They’re also totally self-defining. In society you’re seen a certain way if your dad has a certain job, you’re seen a certain way as a teenager, et cetera. But in combat it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, ugly or poor. All those 19-year-olds are able to completely define themselves in the group and gain the respect of the men around them simply through their actions. That for a young man is such a godsend.

Your documentary, Restrepo, which chronicles a year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan, has received an enormous amount of critical acclaim. What was it like to make it?

I loved using the camera and editing the film. The whole process was very hard but it was amazing. I hope audiences can leave their politics behind for 90 minutes and are able to sit down and appreciate and understand what soldiers go through.

An interview with Sebastain Junger by James Heidenry


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.


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





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