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Trump and NATO

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In a recent article in Foreign Policy, The Certain Trumpet, Admiral Stavridis makes a point about Donald Trump's stance on NATO being dangerous. Admiral Stavridis is spot on but we should not be surprised by Trumps position.

Trump is a business man and has persuaded a sizable portion of the populace that government needs to only be run like a business and all would better. In a business, you do not have treaties or alliances, you merely have deals. Deals can be made and deals can be broken. If you chose to not honor a deal and the result is greater profit for your company, then you are a hero. If you lose, all that is at risk is some money, perhaps your ability to work with that company in the future, and maybe a lawsuit. That is not the case in foreign policy.

In foreign policy, broken treaties can mean the loss of life and liberty. It can mean the loss of allies that are desperately needed, especially is this day age on non-state actors being one of our greatest threats. Further, it is difficult to measure the value of treaties and put them on a balance sheet. Sure, you can look at how much each country has contributed to NATO but how do you measure (accurately anyway), the value received by the US of having a stable Europe?

The problem with Trump is not only with what he thinks he knows, but with what he doesn't know, and more importantly, with what he doesn't know he doesn't know. The issue with the American people is that too many are voting for a person they like or don't like, and not who will and can do what is best for the country. There are many things to dislike about both of the major candidates in terms of their personal lives; there are even things to dislike about their professional lives, but the question that must answered, and the question that must be addressed at the polls in November, is who can do the best job for the country? Not who will be perfect or who will do everything I want them to do, but who can do more good than harm?

Warrior Writers Exhibit

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Last Wednesday, 09 September 2015, I was fortunate enough to be invited by the United States Naval Institute to the opening of the Warrior Writers exhibit at the US Naval Academy Museum. There was a very nice reception and I got to meet some interesting people, many I have only known through their writings, and others through their writings and FaceBook and Twitter. It was a great night.

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The exhibit was opened with some comments from the director of the museum, LCDR Claude Berube. LCDR Berube has written a novel called The Aden Effect and it is a very good read. His second book, Syren's Song, is due out in November and is available for pre-order now. Both of these books are published by the US Naval Institute. LCDR Berube's comments were followed by a few words from the CEO of the Institute, Vice Admiral Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.). Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) closed the opening remarks with his own words about the purpose of the exhibit. Admiral Staviridis is a prolific writer himself and one of my favorite authors and I highly recommend his latest book, The Accidental Admiral.

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As I talked to several people throughout the night, a common cause was evident among us all. The exhibit was not created to brag about all the Naval Institute has done; it was not created to attract new visitors, although I am sure it will; it was not created to simply fill empty space; no, the theme I heard repeatedly, and one I shared, was "if this encourages others to write, then it is well worth the effort and expense". The motto of the USNI is "Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write."

The exhibit itself highlights important writing and events of each decade since the founding of the USNI. To reinforce this, the Naval Academy Museum has initiated a series of fourteen weekly podcasts; each podcast will focus on a single decade. The podcast can be found at iTunes.

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One part of the exhibit that I particularly enjoyed was the display of some of the books published by the USNI. In the same display case were some of the pens on loan from Admiral Stavridis and a note saying how much he likes to write.

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All in all, it was a great night; I talked to some wonderful people, saw a great exhibit, met some virtual friends in person, and was inspired. I am already thinking about a possible article for the Naval Institute Proceedings.

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The article below was written for and published in the July 2015 Happenings on the Hill of First Presbyterian Church PC(USA) Starkville, Mississippi.It is based on an interview I had with Aretta when she was in town for a visit a few months ago. The entire newsletter can be found at the FPC Starkville website.


Military Youth Being Served by FPC's Own Aretta Zitta

Mission work comes in various flavors: feeding the hungry, providing childcare, helping in disasters, and many others. One of our own, Aretta Zitta, has found a special ministry and type of mission work. Aretta works with the children of the military through a program called Youth for Christ. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Aretta when she visited Starkville a while back and we talked about her work.

Aretta lives in Kaiserslautern Germany and works primarily with the youth of our military at Ramstein Air Force Base. She said this is the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States and is primarily Army and Air Force families. Like many missionaries, Aretta works with three organizations which is sometimes confusing when she is asking people for support. She actually works for Youth for Christ. However she also partners with Young Life which formed Military Community Youth Ministries. To do her work on military bases, she has to have a contract with the government which gives her recognition and allows her access to the base and the people. That contract is actually through an organization known as Club Beyond. With such a group, Aretta works with Christians of many different denominations.

Having been doing this work for many years, Aretta, has moved into a supervisory position and now supervises ten people and is involved with work in some twenty-five communities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Part of the work Aretta and her group do is provide Christian-focused camps for the youth. One camp is a winter snow camp in the Austrian Alps. Through these camps she and her team reach some five hundred youth and leaders each year. Aretta said she could always use money to provide scholarships to these camps. Her youth and leaders are also involved in service projects including Vacation Bible School, work in the Czech Republic, and helping others where needed. Aretta is providing the only program for some two thousand youth so her presence and work is definitely needed.

Challenges faced by military families are many. With assignments lasting for two to three years, military families move to new towns frequently. This makes it difficult for the youth to form close, lasting friendships. A church "home" is really more of a church "apartment" because the families know they will only be in the church for a couple of years before moving to a new place. Military youth also face their own special kind of problems, problems typical children never encounter. Aretta mentioned that it is really easy to talk to military youth about God because she doesn't have to manufacture crises. These children have friends and parents who have gone to war and some have not come home; they live under constant threat of terrorist attacks, exist in an environment where their mothers and fathers may go to work one day and be sent out of the country for an extended time, and know that no matter what, they will be moving and leaving their friends and schools in the near future.

If you would like to help Aretta with her ministry, you can do so by sending her money through Youth for Christ (https://securegive.yfc.net/azitta) or through the church. She certainly appreciates and needs your prayers. She would also like your help in telling her story. With her being removed from us by many miles and several time zones, it is difficult for her to spread the word of what she is doing. You can friend her on Facebook and then message her with a request to be added to her mailing list and be kept informed of her work.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the stresses and concerns of the military youth continue. Even in peacetime (not that we are anywhere near that yet), Aretta and her staff are performing the Lord's work in an environment and location where it is much needed. Please consider providing her with financial support and your prayers for her success and safety.


Memorial Day 2015

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Memorial Day is one of those interesting days where you don't know whether to celebrate or mourn: mourn the loss of life, or celebrate the freedom those lives earned. Some will mourn, especially those families who lost loved ones, others will celebrate and give not a thought to meaning of the day, I choose to do both.

In a few hours I will go down to the Courthouse to set up for our ceremony. I don't know how many years we have been doing this but it has been many. I recall when the news reporters would come to our ceremony because it was the only one being held. Now, others have their ceremonies but ours remains essentially the same, unchanged, simple, solemn. The weather looks like rain but it should not be raining at 1100, the time our ceremony begins. Regardless, we will have the dedicated citizens out to join us. I hope the clouds will keep the temperatures down.

Since the War of the Revolution, America has lost more than 1.3 million lives in defense of our country and preservation of our principles around the globe. Many of those paid the ultimate sacrifice did so holding strong beliefs in the cause for which they were fighting. Others, especially recently, may not have believed so much in the cause as they did in their country; they were called to serve, and they served.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Vietnam, likely remember someone who died there. Although I was only eight years old, I recall the son of a neighbor, the only son, who died. David Wayne Parker lived across the street and, although we did not know the family well, I recall the green Army staff car visiting the house several days. I was to learn later that he was on a patrol one night and was crossing a river. When the squad got to the other bank, he was not with them. He was presumed to have drowned and his body was never recovered.

Then there is William Newton Johnson, the brother of a friend, who died when I was only 7 and long before I had met my friend. He died of small arms fire in South Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant.

For those who consider today to be nothing more than a vacation, enjoy it, the price of that enjoyment has been paid by others. For those who give deeper meaning to today than simply a day off work, join me at 1100 and let's both mourn and celebrate the lives of these brave people.

I ran across this video a while ago and couldn't find it when I wanted it. I just received it from the Commander of the New Orleans Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States. I post it here for your viewing and my easy reference.

The link to the YouTube video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcnH_kF1zXc

I've been waiting for this talk ever since I heard he was going speak. The talk is short, like all TED talks, but it has some valuable information for leaders. I've always liked General McChrystal, although we have never met. He eats one meal a day, I eat one meal a day; he sleeps about 4 hours a day, I sleep about 4 hours a day. It would have been fun working with him.

General McChrystal's biography.

Dateline: Mississippi State University, 10 December 2010.

I was honored to have been asked to be the guest speaker at the 10 December 2010 Joint Army-Air Force Commissioning ceremony at Mississippi State. There were four cadets commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the US Air Force and one commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. It was a pleasure to have been asked to speak and a joy to share some of the lessons I have learned with these new lieutenants who are beginning their careers.

After the ceremony I received some very nice complements on the talk and I was appreciative of them. I told several that what I told these new airmen and soldier were what I wished someone had told me when I was an Ensign. The text of my remarks is below.

Friend's Son on Colbert Nation

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A nice segment from the Colbert Report. I am in the same Sunday School Class with Lt. Col. Cummings mother and also knew his fater--a grerat man. Enjoy...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Brent Cummings & Josh Bleill<a>
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

On Saturday, 28 August 2010, over a year's effort of planning came to fruition with the Recognition Ceremony and Celebration Honoring Starkville and Oktibbeha County Veterans of World War II. I was a small part of the planning committee for this event but it success is due solely to the tireless work of Bill Poe and Joan Wilson.

The event was sponsored by the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum funded in part by a SOAR grant from the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. In addition to honoring the veterans, there was a panel discussion hosted on Thursday which detailed the early involvement of Oktibbeha County in pioneering aviation. The museum also conducted and recorded interviews of World War II veteran which will be available in the museum.

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) gave the keynote address on Saturday and he is to be commended for his outstanding address. His remarks were on target and stayed focused on honoring the veterans. All too often people who give speeches get off track with their personal agendas and actually detract from those being honored. Senator Cochran did not do that. He also kept his talk brief in recognition of the length of the program and the age of those being honored.

The keynote address can be heard below. The sound quality is not all that good but the video camera did the best it could.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, each veteran was given an opportunity to have his picture taken with General Freeman from the Mississippi National Guard and Parker Wiseman, mayor of the City of Starkville. Each veteran was photographed holding a steel plate with a cut-out of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. These plates were furnished by Gulf States Manufacturing, a company with a long history of honoring veterans.

Following Senator Cochran's keynote address, former Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, the master of ceremonies, called the name of each veteran and their branch of service while a member of the Boy Scouts of America presented them with their personal steel plate.

When we first began planning this event we were hoping to have around 30 veterans attend. We ended up with 43. There were perhaps 200 or more from the community who came to honor these members of the Greatest Generation. It was a bittersweet time in that many who served are no longer with us and could not be honored. I thought of my grandfather most of the day. There were also many other World War II veterans in Oktibbeha County who were unable to attend the ceremony. We honor them all.

Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone reporter whose article resulted in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, was told his request to embed with a unit was denied. Some reports I read said he had originally been told he could embed but that decision was reversed. Mr. Hastings is not too happy about it from what I have seen. I'm truly surprised that he thought for a minute he would be able to do this so soon after the article.

Let me be the first to say that the things Gen. McChrystal said were inappropriate for a military officer but, I do admire the man for not trying to squirm out of the comments and resigning. In my opinion, he left with honor.

What surprises me is the Hastings would think for a minute he would be welcomed back as an embedded reporter. I think he really does not understand the military and he seems to have no respect for it. First, if he knew anything about the military, he surely knew what consequences would be suffered by Gen. McChrystal once the article was published. The Inspector General is now conducting a review of those involved in the article to see if any are guilty of insubordination but one article states that Hastings has refused to cooperate with the investigation. That, to me, is a sign of his disrespect for the institution.

Let's look at what Hastings really did and why the only explanations I can up with for his surprise at being denied an embed is ignorance or tunnel vision. Hastings was invited to a house as a guest. Once there he drank all the beer, left trash all over the place, ate all of the food, kicked the dog, and insulted all of your family members. He leaves. Then, when he wants to come back a few weeks later for another visit he is told no and is surprised. He really must just not get it.

But what did he get for himself? Well he got an article that seems to have resulted in record Rolling Stone sales. He seems to have made somewhat of a name for himself. And it also appears he got a book deal out of the article. It seems to me like he came out with a pretty good deal.

But what did it cost? Well, it cost a great general his career. It broke up what seemed to be a good team (Petraeus-McChrystal) on the right track in Afghanistan. But the greatest cost may well be the lack of information and insight the American people--no, the people of the world--will get. His self-glorification means that every embedded reporter is going to be scrutinized likely resulting in fewer being able to report. Those who are allowed will be around military people who are closely guarded in what they say. The result will be less information, less insight, and less of an idea of what the people are who are fighting these wars.

And it was all unnecessary. Hastings could have reported on what he found in a way that would not have resulted in embarrassment and resignations. But then again, learning that military people may actually have opinions is not news. Reporting that some in the military approve of what the President is doing and some do not approve is not titillating. But publishing the article in the way it was published did help him make a name for himself. In my opinion he sacrificed his honor and it is unlikely anyone in the military will ever trust him again. On the other hand, by his actions after the article was published preserved his honor and will likely be trusted by all he meets. Rare is the individual who will stand up and willingly be held accountable for his actions; rare, that is, everywhere except in the military.


"Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice", by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, 17 July 2010.

This is yet more evidence how Greg Mortenson and his book "Three Cups of Tea" is making an impact. I am impressed by the impact Mortenson is having on the military, and perhaps, vice versa. I am looking forward to his visit to Mississippi State in September and would love to follow up the visit with one from General Petraeus or Admiral Mullen.

CWID 2010 Closes

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Last week we completed Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) 2010. My last blog post on the US Joint Forces Command blog was posted here today. With luck, I'll pick up again next June for CWID 2011.

Joint is Part of Calition

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Yesterday I posted this on the U.S. Joint Force Command blog as part of their CWID 2010 blogging. A few more posts are planned.

Today was media day at CWID and I toured some media representatives and then was on a conference call with JFCOM and reporters discussing CWID and my observations. I was not alone--I had my friends from the National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps with me as well. It is a privilege to work with such professionals.

Over the next week I will be blogging some on my experiences at the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) on the U.S. Joint Forces Command blog. The blog itself can be found at www.usjfcom.dodlive.mil and my first post, actually poste last Friday, can be found here.

Several others at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahdlgren will also be posting and there will also be posts from other sites.

Strategy or Tactics?

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"Strategy vs. Tactics in Afghanistan", by Ann Marlowe. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. A19, 02 June 2010.

Ms Marlowe has done some research on counterinsurgency strategy and has some interesting and telling comments. She points out that "good counterinsurgency can't make up for the lack of a political plan" and she is absolutely correct. This is actually a strategy of tactics according to military historian Col. Gian Gentile at the USMA, meaning there are actions being taken on the ground but there is no overall objective. I find that troubling given Clausewitz states that "war is politics by other means". Without the politics are we not in some difficulty?

It is also interesting that counterinsurgency has worked in the past but in those situations there was a good government in place. Such is not the case in Afghanistan. Will that be the downfall of the COIN strategy or will it be an exception to history. I don't know but I hope for the exception.

This summer Ms Marlowe is to publish a monograph on David Galula, a French COIN theorist through the Strategic Studies Institute. I'll look forward to reading it.


The traditional Memorial Day ceremony was held in Starkville today, planned and executed by the Military Affairs Committee, which I co-chair. As has become our tradition, I was the master of ceremonies. web_IMG_0769.jpgThe day started out great with a little cloud cover but warmed up near time for the ceremony. We always worry about the heat and its effects on some the elderly who attend. The Oktibbeha County Red Cross is always present though with water for those who need it.

Our guest speaker this year was LTC Jim Sisson who is the commander of the 2nd-114th Field Artillery Mississippi National Guard unit in Starkville. Sisson.jpg
We also had brief welcome speeches from the Mayor of Starkville, Parker Wiseman, and the President of the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors, Marvel Howard.
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The Boy Scouts from troop 288 served as the color guard and also assisted with the laying of the traditional wreaths at the memorial in front of the courthouse.

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This year we also had a parade thanks to Ashley Cumberland, a Mississippi State University student who organized the parade as her capstone project for the Appalachian Leadership Honors Program. She did a great job and spent many hours getting it organized. It was such a success that I think we will have to do it again next year but that will mean finding someone to organize it.

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Silver Spring, MD

I attended the Education Opportunities for Veterans with Disabilities Workshop today at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh. We had some really good discussions about what can be done, what needs to be done, and how far we need to go to get it done.

We were given a tour of the rehabilitation wing of the hospital where they work with amputees. I was impressed with the level of care our veterans are receiving, the technology that is being used in both rehab and prosthetics, and especially in the care and concern given by the staff. Many steps have been taken to reduce the administrative burden on the warriors. I must admit that I was glad to be there as a visitor rather than as a patient though!

I have heard of late that some people are not referring to disabled or handicapped people as disabled but rather as differently-abled. While some it might sound as too much political correctness, I assure you, the people I met in the hospital and on the panel, do not consider themselves disabled. They have real injuries including traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even some amputations, but they all seemed to have a can-do attitude. Without a doubt, they have some hurdles to overcome but these people can do it. That is what I love about military people--the difficult will be done today, the impossible will be done by tomorrow.

It was also heartening to see technology being used to positively impact someone's life in a very direct way. The computer simulation systems to help amputees learn to walk and balance to the technology to help them drive a car to the simulation system that allows them to fire weapons and regain their confidence is what engineering is all about.

Now, an early flight in the morning to get back home.

Spirit of America in Afghanistan by Jim Hake, Wall Street Journal, Monday, 28 December 2009, p. A15.

Jim Hake has been leading Spirit of America for the past six years and offers a way for the average Joe to help fight the war against terrorism. The objective is to give troops sewing machines, clothing, medical supplies, toys, and other materials that can be given to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. This will help show the people that Americans are friends and not enemies. As the article notes "General Mattis has said that our 'direct support to build the hopes of the people is often as important as a resupply of ammunition."

The web site is www.spiritofamerica.net and Mr. Hake also has a book, "101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan".


The Best Military Books of the Decade, Navy Times, 18 January 2010, p 4

The Navy Times has published its list of the best military books of the decade. I can't say I disagree with too many of them and am surprised by some. For example, The Fourth Star made the list, which I think is appropriate, but it was not released until late 2009.

The list.

  1. Shane Comes Home by Rinker Buck, 2005
  2. Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell, 2009.
  3. The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army by David Cloud and Greg Jaffe, 2009.
  4. The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq by John Crawford, 2005.
  5. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick, 2005.
  6. The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, 2008.
  7. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, 2009
  8. Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America by Nathaniel Frank, 2009.
  9. The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War by Brandon Friedman, 2007.
  10. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R, Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, 2006.
  11. Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq by Jason Christopher Hartley, 2005.
  12. The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education by Craig Mullaney, 2009.
  13. The Long Road Home; A Story of War and Family by Martha Raddatz, 2007.
  14. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks, 2006.
  15. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swafford, 2003.
  16. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War by Evan Wright, 2004.

That's five published in 2009, one in 2008, two in '07, two in '06, four in 2005, and one each in 2004 and 2003. Fully eighty-eight percent of the best books of the decade were written in the last half of the decade with thirty-one percent coming in the last year. All of these books deal with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So, did the books most recently published make the list because they were fresh on our minds or was it because it takes some time to put things into perspective before you can write a good book about a war. I lean towards the latter.

There are other books that made the reading lists of some officers mentioned in the article but did not make the list. For example, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden published in 2000 would have been a good choice. I also think there should have been room for The Sling and The Stone: On War in the 21st Century by Thomas X. Hammes published in 2004 should have made the list. I would have also included Inside CentCom: The Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by Michael DeLong in 2004 and Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq by Linda Robinson published in 2008. But, it is not my list.

Educate a Girl for $350!

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ARTICLE: GUEST OPINION: War, terrorism, politics and 'Three Cups of Tea', pressdemocrat.com, 02 January 2010.

This is a nice op-ed on Greg Mortenson's efforts to educate girls in the Middle East. An entire lifetimes education for a girl can be had for only $350. Contrast that to the cost of education we are used to when a few text books can cost that much.

The thiking is that by educating girls, when they have children they will discourage them from become radicalized and will encourage them to get an education as well. Education is the key to improving te human ituation around the world. What I find interesting is that, as Mortenson says, the military gets this, it is the State Department that doesn't seem to get it.

Read more about this in Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time and his just released book Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Military Time, Civilian Time

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This editorial, Military Time, Civilian Time, by Nathaniel Fick, is one reason why the Center for a New American Security has become my favorite think tank. Editorials such as this demonstrate that CNAS looks at both sides of the issues and makes it clear that most, if not all, public policy choices are difficult ones to make.

Ruger: Military leaders have a duty to stay out of politics, by William Ruger, Texas State University, Statesman.com Sunday, 08 November, 2009

Ruger, an Assistant Professor at Texas State University, makes an often-cited argument that military personnel, especially military leaders should stay out of politics and public policy. Interestingly these comments seem directed more towards Generals Petraeus and McChrystal who are saying that their strategy of counter insurgency, combined with more troops, could yield positive benefits in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet seldom are those military leaders who call for reductions told they need to be silent.

At the core of the argument is the principle that the US military is under civilian control. That fact is indisputable and is a key principle that sets the American military apart from other militaries. However, to say that that means military personnel should sit idly by and have no opinion is mis-guided. While I agree that the military leaders should not publicly debate the civilian leaders; that does not mean that they should attempt to hide their beliefs. The reality is that today's military leaders tend to be highly educated people with vast amounts of real-world experience. Many of these leaders could be university professors and may well be once they retire.

Another factor that is often over-looked is that the nature of the military today has changed. The military in Iraq and Afghanistan is doing civil-military relations work, in large part because there are not enough civilians who are willing to serve in the countries. In effect the military is making public policy, helping to establish governments, providing aid to the citizens of the countries but Dr. Ruger and others argue that the military should pretend they only "kill people and break things".

What if the military leaders in Vietnam had been more forceful and truthful about what was happening there? Would there not have been even greater calls to change strategy? I believe the American people are smart enough to hear the various options being proposed and to make up their own minds as to what should or should not be done without having military advice filtered by political administrations. Now, once the President makes a decision, then I do agree that it would be time for the military leadership to either execute the plan or resign. But, even then, if things start to go badly, then I would expect them to speak up once again or else we may well end up with another Vietnam.

I for one value the opinions of today's military leaders and weigh them against those of our civilian leaders to form my own opinion. Such is the privilege of being an American.

What happened at Fort Hood is a tragedy and my sympathy goes out to all those who have suffered as a result. However, I remain concerned about what might happen if people do not follow the recommendation of Admiral Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and withhold judgment until the facts are in. We have become a nation too quick to attribute violence committed by a Muslim to terrorism and continuing to do say could well result in a loss of the diversity and acceptance that makes this nation what it is.

Unfortunately, an event such as this simply provides too many opportunities for political grandstanding. In a Wall Street Journal article today titled "Lieberman Suggests Army Shooter Was 'Home-Grown Terrorist'", Senator Lieberman is quick to say that the shooting " could have been a terrorist attack, and that he would launch a congressional investigation into whether the U.S. military could have prevented it." He may be right but is it not a little early too early announce a "congressional investigation?"

General Casey pointed out that he too cannot rule out that this was an act of terrorism but that we need to refrain from speculation and let the investigation run its course. I suggest Congress should follow the General's advice and let the investigation continue before speculating. Let the Army conduct its investigation and see what they find then, should Congress be unhappy with the findings, Congressional hearings could be held.

Aviation History

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I attended a meeting today of a group from the local heritage museum interested in organizing an event that will commemorate the role played by Starkville and Mississippi State in aviation. It may not seem likely but there is a rich aviation history in the area ranging from the training of pilots for World War II to world-class research conducted at the university. This event will trace this history and also, I hope, point to the future and work going on now.

In conjunction with this we will also honor our World War II veterans as we celebrate the anniversary of the end of that war--a war in which aviation played a key role.

Reading is, after all, fundamental. Nice interview with the creator of the Navy Professional Reading Program here. This program grew out of the CNOs recommended reading list but I think the Navy was right on the money in devising this particular program. You can easily zero in on either a general topic of interest or a list of books for a particular rank.

Interesting that they are looking at how to integrate Kindles and, I assume, other e-book readers. I maintain that the Kindle is the ideal technology for military personnel. It is light, easy to read, good battery life, and stores lots of books. Hard copy will be good for libraries but I want to have my Kindle with me.

Dumb-dumb bullets, by T. X. Hammes, Armed forces Journal, July 2009, p, 12.

Col. Hammes has neatly summed up the problems with PowerPoint. It is clearly a great tool for sharing information but is lousy for decision-making. Hammes correctly says that if someone is making too many decisions to have time to read a paper on them, then they are making bad decisions.

What bothers me is that everyone has come to expect a copy of a PowerPoint brief so that they can share it with others. It troubles me when wants a copy of my "slides" but does not hear the presentation. I use PowerPoint as a tool to share information but it is not standalone. The PowerPoint and my talk go together and one without the other is worth less and sometime worthless.

In teaching classes students have come to expect that PowerPoint is posted on the web and often posted even before the class. I have mixed feelings about that and I tend to post my slides after the lecture. First, posting them before class can deter class attendance. Second, it can reduce note-taking. I've heard the argument that by having my slides in class makes it easy to take notes but I don't buy it. Part of taking notes is listening and determining what is important to you. The very act of thinking about what is said and writing it down makes the information yours and easier to recall. Placing a star by a bulleted line is simply not good enough.

The worst thing about using PowerPoint to make decisions is that the author of the presentation seldom seems to present both sides. Bullets are selected such that the decision-maker is led down a certain path--the path of making the decision the presenters wants made.

The Unforgiving Minute

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The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education by Craig M. Mullaney. Penguin Press, 2009.

I just finished this outstanding book and can't recommend it highly enough. It is a very moving story of a soldier who completes West Point, goes to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and then to Afghanistan as a platoon leader. He explores challenges in his professional and personal life and reminds us all that the two are connected.

This book also gives insight into the war in Afghanistan, a place that has, until recently, been ignored by the news reporters. Some of my favorite lines from the book:

  • "Afghans say Americans have all the watches but they have all the time."
  • "At West Point we'd learned that responsibility preceded privilege. I had forgotten how odd that sentiment appeared outside the military."
  • "Every time units played musical chairs in Afghanistan, we became vulnerable again. Every time the music stopped, another unit would start over learning the physical and cultural terrain. The lack of continuity certainly frustrated relationships with local khans. Trust was hard-won in this part of the world, and we were treating Afghan leaders like contestants in a round of speed dating."
  • "The challenge of education is not to prepare a person for success, but to prepare him for failure. ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE"

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about leadership, the military, or Afghanistan to read this book.

Memorial Day Service

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The Greater Starkville Development Partnership Memorial Day Service went very well today. It took a little while to get the sound ysem working (a problem when you only do it once a year) but then it went well.

The keynote speaker was Colonel Gary E. Huffman, Mississippi Army National Guard, Rear Detachment Commander, 155th Brigade Combat Team. He did a nice job and shared a sentiment I have often shared with others. Heroes are the ones who pick up a weapon and fight the enemy; heroes are not football players, movie stars, or politicians.

The rain held off for the most part until near the end when we were laying wreaths at the monument. I rushed thingsalongas much as I could to try and get everyone out as soon as possible. Of course,a few minutes later the rain stopped.

Many thanks to those on the Military Affaris Committee and the GSDP who made this possible.

CWID Keynote

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Heard a great talk given today by Major General Kevin Kennedy, Director, Joint Capability Development Directorate (J-8), HQ Joint Forces Command at the CWID Final Planning Conference. I've heard some good talks and some okay talks, but this was one of the better talks as it relates to CWID. I was hoping to have General Mattis though. Maybe next year.

One of the issues to be resolved in a coalition fight is data communication. How can pertinent data be formatted, transmitted, remain secure, and be trusted is key to more efficient and effective fighting in the future. He related this as being similar to Zip codes. Zip codes were created to make the sorting of mail more efficient. When more refinement was needed the Post Office came up with Zip+4. A similar thing needs to be done for data so that warfighters on the ground can use equipment that will communicate coalition force's equipment, perhaps directly. Doing so would reduce the time required and the possibility of introducing errors.

U.S. Navy Must Innovate

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"Report: U.S. Navy Must Innovate", by Philip Ewing. Defense News. February 23, 2009, p. 32

There are some interesting facts in this article.

The US has almost as many warships as Russia and China together.
The US fleet is as large as the next 13 navies when measured by displacement.
It takes adding the naval airpower of the next nine navies to equal the naval airpower of the US.
The US Navy carries as much firepower on its 75 cruisers and destroyers as the next 20 largest navies carry on their combined 367 ships.

Work does call for building more hospital ships to increase the soft power of the US and that does indeed seem to be a good idea.

What concerns me is the call for innovation but Work's discussion does not include the DDG 1000 or the CGX. Sure, these ships have been costing a little more than initially planned but they are innovative. I maintain it is hard to innovate on the cheap.

Taking Chance

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I, along with the family, watched Taking Chance on HBO. This is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time, and is, in my opinion, what movies should be. It was very moving and relied on nothing but sheer acting skills, especially by Kevin Bacon. I have no doubt that it will many awards this year. When it makes it to DVD I will certainly buy a couple of copies for friends and family.

One interesting thing about this is that I know a Marine Colonel who knows Lt. Col Mike Strobl. In fact, while I was at the CWID MPC a week ago, he was invited to Washington, DC to see the premiere. That means that I know someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon.

Update: Taking Chance is now available for pre-order at Amazon for $17.99 with a release date of 19 May 2009. The movie soundtrack is available now.

Victor H. Krulak, 1913-2008 "Military Innovator Who Sought New Approach to Battle in Vietnam," by. Stephen Miller. The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 2, Saturday/Sunday, 03-04 January 2009.

General Victor Krulak, 95, passed away on Monday, 29 December 2008. This is a nice review of his career and shows many ways in which he was a creative thinker. I recall discussing his ideas on how to win in Vietnam in my war college seminar and we all agreed that it was the only way to win that war. In fact, in places where it had been implemented, results were being realized. Unfortunately the American public was growing tired of the war and the method would take several years to win the war.

There are many parallels between General Krulak and General Petraeus. Both are innovative and sometimes unconventional. They have both forwarded ideas that were met with resistance. And, in the end, I think they both were correct while their critics were wrong.

His plan to win in Vietnam included winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people on a village by village basis one person at a time. It also included placing mines in Haiphong harbor which President Johnson thought might anger the Russians and/or Chinese. Therefore the President did not embrace this plan, passed over General Krulak for Commandant of the Marine Corps, and resulted in his retirement. As for the outcome of the war, well that is history.

General David Petraeus is the top "public intellectual" according to Prospect (HT: Free Republic). In their January 2009 article Intellectual Surge they state "we know an original thinker when we see one, especially one who uses brainpower to achieve change in the most difficult of circumstances." I've had several discussions with colleagues and many argue that General Petraeus is an anomaly within the military. I don't see him so much as an anomaly as I do a leader of the type of military officers we can expect in the future. I would love the opportunity to work for this man.

Memories of 11 September 2001

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11 March 2002

With today being six months from that day in September and with every television station showing the videotapes and covering the speeches, it is hard to not reflect on the day that has changed America forever. I have not talked much about what I experienced that day, in part because I'm not the kind of person that talks about such things, and in part because it is tough to talk about what I saw and experienced. While most people saw nothing but terror and confusion, I had another perspective. I saw terror, sure, but I also saw bravery, courage, honor, an individuals resolved to protect and defend this country.

Those Whom We Have Forgotten

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It is hard to believe that it was about twenty years ago when I made my first trip to Washington, DC. It was the summer of my freshmen year in college and I had been working at a steel fabrication plant for the last several months earning some money for college and gaining some work experience. As the summer drew to a close, I mentioned to parents that I would like for us all to go to Wash-ington and see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I pointed out that it would be the last time we could take a vacation as a family and that it was probably the last chance I would have to see Washington. I was right about the vacation, I was married the following summer and we have not had family vacations since; I was wrong about it being my last time to see Washington, the Navy has seen fit to provide me with many opportunities to visit the center of democracy.

"Military Finds an Unlikely Adviser In School-Building Humanitarian," by Yochi J. Dreazen. Wall Street Journal, Friday 26 December 2008, Vol CCLII, No. 150, p. A9.

The military is listening to Greg Mortenson a co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time. Mr. Mortenson is being courted by the military now for advice on nation building. He believes that building schools is an effective way to fight Islamic extremism. He has already visited with Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.

"General Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, read Mr. Mortenson's book, which recounts his school-building efforts, and recommends it to his staff." Nation-building, something once abhorred by the military has now become a part of the military strategy. People like General Petraeus are, I believe, responsible for much of this. In the past he military was quick to divide fighting wars and rebuilding following the war. The military did the former, NGOs, aka civilians, did the latter, but in the new age of warfare it is more difficult to divide these two phases, especially when fighting an insurgency where winning hearts and minds is critical to winning the war.

"Education is the long-term solution to fanaticism,: says Col. Christopher Kolenda, who commanded an Army brigade in a part of eastern Afghanistan where Mr. Mortenson founded two schools. "As Greg points out so well, ignorance breeds hatred and violence."

This seems so obvious but many of us tend to miss the obvious. Not only does "ignorance breeds hatred and violence" apply to Islamic insurgents; it applies to people across the world. When you look at those who are the most racist, the most protectionist, and most violent also tend to be the most ignorant. Let's face it, when was the last time you read about a gang of Ph.D.s terrorizing a neighborhood?

Mr. Mortenson has come face-to-face with an issue that concerns me and one I have been looking into for several years--the military-NGO incompatibility. When offered to have $2.2 million secretly funneled to him to build schools, he "...realized my credibility in that part of the world depended on me not being associated with the American government, especially its military." This is a sad yet real part of the world in which we live. NGOs and the military could do great things by working together but there are serious issues which must be overcome and the most serious issue is the one of perception.

Mr. Mortenson has another book coming out in January. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time, scheduled to be released on 22 January 2009 is geared for younger readers. If his first book is recommended reading by General Petraeus to his staff, surely this one will be recommended to the children of his staff.


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Etzioni is wrong on Mullen

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Retire Admiral Mullen by Amitai Etzioni

In a recent post Amitai Etzioni calls for Obama to replace Admiral Mullen and he gives several reasons for his thinking. And he is wrong on most all of them.

It seems Etzioni is chastising Admiral Mullen for speaking against the president’s plan to withdraw troops from Iraq and rather says that withdrawal should be governed by conditions on the ground. The problem is Etzioni is a might confused as to who the president is. He may be salivating over the day Obama becomes president but right now the president is George Bush and the policy Mullen has stated is THE president’s policy.

Etzioni also takes the cowards solution to problems often seen by many in academia. According to him the solution is to either go along or resign. That is a spine of Jell-O! He also erroneously states that a military officer’s obligation is to carry out the orders of the President. Wrong again, but this is a mistake often made by many. An officer takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, it is not to the President.

I am also completely amazed at Etzioni’s ignorance of the function of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Mullen is the president’s chief military advisor—he is not someone to merely carry out orders. Perhaps before writing again he should review the Goldwater-Nichols Act. I really don’t mind people taking issue with the military but I do wish they would take the time to do a little research and form an intelligent opinion.

I think Etzioni is a little too keen on a retreat and lacks a little understanding of the military. If he becomes an advisor to President-elect Obama this country may be in serious trouble.

Third Place in Chili Cookoff

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I won third place in the Mississippi State Scabbard and Blade Honor Society Chili Cookoff today. I made the chili last night and let it cook all night. The judging was today at 1100 in front of Middleton Hall. I was not expecting to win, this was my first entry, so I am very happy. Even better, one of the members of my Day One Action Team from last year won first place!

I had to joke that those running this copetition had to be future contracting officers. They require you to buy the ingedients to make the chili, that you pay a $10 entr fee, and then they sell the chili for $1.00 per bowl. Only a contracting office couldwork such a deal. Of course I was only joking. The proceeds went to support the Sacbbard and Blade Society and the Intrepid Fallen Heros fund--two very worthy causes.

Scabbard%20and%20Blade%20Thrid%20Place%20Chili%202008%20small.jpg

Lunch with WWII Veterans

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I had the privilege of having lunch today with America’s finest. The Sony Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans hosted a luncheon for World War II veterans today on the campus of Mississippi State I was fortunate enough to be invited. I met some really wonderful people who answered their nation’s call and to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. In addition to lunch, we also viewed the PBS documentary on the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.

My only regret is that my grandfather was not around to be invited. I was able to eat with several people today who reminded me of him in many ways. On the one hand I was tremendously proud of what he did. On the other hand it brought back memories and made me realize how much I still miss him.

What a man! I attended the Colin Powell talk tonight and was more than impressed. I read his autobiography many years ago and was impressed then but seeing him in person was even more impressive. He is clearly a very intelligent person and has a keen sense of humor. His talk was informative and entertaining.

We had some students present who embarrassed me, and their fellow students. Some kid (yes, kid) showed up on the floor wearing a “colorful” t-shirt and black and white checked shorts. Most everyone else was wearing business dress. Perhaps he thought he was cool, but I, and even the students sitting near me, thought he was ridiculous and an embarrassment to the university. Some students even called that he be taken off the floor.

Questions were submitted to General Powell and read by students who apparently had some role in deciding which questions to ask. One question dealt with how you could work with someone and work on topics you disagreed with. The implication was that General Powell continued to work on the Iraq war even though he disagreed with President Bush. The General set the student straight and noted that the question assumed he and the president disagreed. He clearly stated that he did not. He was in agreement with going to war but differed in how things were handled after the fall of Baghdad. Another question was so boggled and senseless I can’t even remember what it was. I only remember that the General did a great job in handling it with dignity. I was impressed with the answers given but disappointed in the questions asked.

His talk covered his time in the military, his time as SecState, retirement, and his outlook on life--he looks ahead, not to the rear.

General Powell is definitely a speaker to hear given a chance.

I attended the 2008 Air Force Ball in Columbus tonight with my wife. I was there actually representing the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Military Affairs Committee but Navy uniforms were authorized so I added a touch in joint service. It was held celebrating the 61st birthday of the Air Force and the 66th anniversary of Columbus Air Force Base. We had a good time, with good food, with good people. Harding Catering handled the food and I have never had Bridget serve anything I didn’t like.

The guest speaker tonight was Major General Michael Gould, Director of Operations and Plans, US Transportation Command. He did a really good job with is talk. Like most, not all, but most, flag and general officers he was able to give a talk that was on topic, had the right amount of humor and serious content, and was of an appropriate length. Sounds like it is easy to do until you try it yourself and realize how difficult it can be. Of course the central theme was the excellence of the Air Force and the pride in CAFB and among those serve. But the greater theme was family and keeping them first. He made some excellent points but, unfortunately, it is difficult to do, especially in today’s world with today’s OPTEMPO. On the other hand, by doing what we do, we allow others to have that family time.

My wife and I actually danced to two songs. Doesn’t sound like much but for someone who does not dance (me) it was a lot of dancing. I really did enjoy the night. Happy Birthday Air Force!

"Read, Think, Write, and Publish' by Admiral Jim Stavridis, U.S. Navy, US Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2008, pp.16-19.

In the August 2008 issue of Proceedings, Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN, Commander of US Southern Command makes a compelling case for military officers, actually military members, to air their ideas. In his article entitled “Read, Think, Write, and Publish”, he quotes Benjamin Franklin as saying “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing” and then Admiral Stavridis adds, “Do both!” The John Adams motto “Read, Think, Write” has long since been adopted by the Naval Institute, and is also my personal motto, and now Admiral Stavridis asks that we all adopt it but take it a step further and publish. [John Adams actually said “Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”]

Such a request is not without its risks, however. Putting ideas out in the open can be a dangerous thing at many levels, especially at the personal level. Reciting the widely-accepted mantra of the day, or merely restating the obvious is usually not risky. But then again, it accomplishes very little. The best writings, in my opinion, are those that get people to think. Even if in the end the opinion expressed is not widely accepted or the idea is relegated to the trash can, the act of getting the thought started is worth the effort. Of course the audience must be willing to listen and willing to have an open debate and that, unfortunately, is not always the case. When an unpopular opinion is expressed publicly, whether is right or wrong, does not matter, it can carry a high personal price. This is something I recently learned the hard way.

My former church had been going through rough times. The internal issues, which are too numerous to list here, but which were, in my opinion, not being addressed. The Session was, again in my opinion, too concerned about not hurting feelings or not offending someone than they were in doing the work they were supposed to be doing. Now I must be clear here that this is not a condemnation of any individual member on the Session or in the church—the problem was one of the organization as an entity. There were strong members of Session but the Session as a whole was unwilling to look at the problems. Membership growth had stalled, if not declined; weekly attendance was falling; the number of people removing their names from elder ballot was rising; and the minister was being blamed for all of this. Sermons were, according to those dissatisfied, “too intellectual”, “too long”, “not exciting”, and a host of other things.

The church, over my objection and against my vote, removed the minister and then pronounced the problem was solved and we needed only a healing period. I was ready to leave then, like many of my friends did, but I stayed in hopes of being able to get things back on-track. However, what followed were group discussions and surveys which resulted in little and ignored those of us who were not into group therapy. Further, those like me were being told that we needed to get with the plan. But I had a finger on the pulse of the church membership and I knew that roughly a third of the church members attended so sporadically that they were clueless as to what was happening. Another third was happy because they “got their way”. The final third was still hurt, not happy with the things were going, but were either sticking it out to try to make things better (like me) or were sticking around because they did not feel comfortable going to another church.

Recognizing this I chose to write an article for the church newsletter. I had written them in the past and they often would stimulate some thinking. The article was entitled “A Message to Garcia” and referred to the story by Elbert Hubbard which recounted the struggles of Rowan to deliver a message to General Garcia in the Spanish-American War. I pointed out that there were those of us who were still not healed and that problems remained the church. I acknowledged that there were also Rowans’ within the church who were trying to deliver the message that all was not well. Interestingly, I also pointed out that the motto of our church was “Open hearts, open minds”, in hopes that the message would be heard.

What I found was that the church seemingly no longer had an open mind. The reactions to my article ranged from “I was wrong, everything was fine”, to “who is Garcia?” There were also those who came up to me and thanked me for saying what needed to be said. Rather than stimulate debate it raised defenses of those who wanted to pronounce the church healed. Further, it was stated that if I had concerns I should take them to the Session and not publish such articles. There was even brief discussion of having Session or a committee review articles before being published. Call it what you will but in my book the church with open minds was seriously discussing censorship.

The price I paid was coming to the conclusion that it was time to leave. I hated to leave; I had really hoped that things would turn around and get better. I joined another congregation in town and have been very happy ever since. They put God first in the church and their membership is growing. My old church has seen little to no growth and even fewer members are leaving their names on the ballot for elder elections. They now have a new minister and I truly pray things get better. However, before I left, the interim minister resigned. I have this hope because there is a need for such a church and because I still have friends who attend there. There are also some friends who attend there, share many of my thoughts and concerns but, for whatever reasons, are not comfortable joining another church.

I still agree with Admiral Stavridis and John Adams, but I am now keenly aware that reading and writing do not necessarily result in thinking, and there may well be a high personal cost associated with the publishing.

Uniform Inspires Act of Honoring Airmen, Silver Wings, 22 August 2008, p. 9

I was pleased to see an article in the Columbus Air Force Base newspaper about an Air Force Master Sergeant at Luke Air Force Base having her books bought for her by a citizen. It is was nice to read that almost 7 years after the events of 11 September 2001, there are citizens who are still thankful and appreciative of what the military does for them. What’s more telling is the fact that this person recently lost his brother to the conflict in Iraq. This man had made a tremendous sacrifice yet he wanted to thank this Airman for her service.

I too have been blessed with the kindness of ordinary people over the years. During drill weekends it was not at all uncommon to have people, generally elderly, but not always, come up and thank me and those I was with for what we do. On my trips home I have also seen kindness. It was never much, but it was meaningful. Perhaps the most meaningful was a stop at Burger King on my home from drill one Sunday. I was in uniform and ran in to get a couple of burgers. The total cost was only a few dollars but when I pulled out my wallet to pay, the young lady, okay the girl—seemed to still be in high school—told me there was no charge. I thanked her but told her I wanted to pay. Her response was “No, I appreciate what you do and this makes me feel like I am serving my country too.” I couldn’t argue with that logic.

Whether it is books or burgers, we do appreciate these gestures of kindness. But please excuse us if we seem a little uncomfortable. Most of us were reared in environments where we were the ones who were expected to make the sacrifices for others and we are not used to having others show us that side—outside the military anyway.

Generation Entitlement

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The Navy and the Generation of Entitlement, by LCDRSteven L. Rogers, USN, Naval Reserve Association News, August 2008, p. 14.

This commentary struck a chord with me. The article mentioned that we have the baby boomers, the Gen-X and Gen-Y crowd, and even the Millennials, but the author described a new generation he calls Generation Entitlement. This is the generation that my generation messed up by trying to make sure they did not do without. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I think we, and they, would have been better served by experiencing a little more adversity in their lives.

LCDR Rogers points out that “[t]hese individuals question all authority, care little about tradition, and refuse to embrace a work ethic which requires ‘earning your way’.” He also states they are arrogant, self-serving, and impatient. He says they do not belong in the Navy and I would add they do not belong anywhere.

Before I run the risk of generalizing about an entire generation, let me be the first to add that within this generation are a large number of exceptions. These are the people who are hard-working, dedicated, and believe in sacrifice. They look at what has been given them not as an entitlement but rather as a gift to be used to better themselves and society. They really are out there and I have had the privilege of meeting them.

However, I have also had more than my fair share of meeting the self-serving Gen E’ers. Over the last few days I have been dealing with more than fair share of them. They have been asked to sit out of school for various periods of time because of poor academic performance and have been petitioning for readmission. Far too many have had parents and distant relative intervene on their behalf. I have heard all kinds of excuses as to how they got in trouble and how not they really will work hard to do better. Some really have identified their difficulties and taken action to correct the problems. Others simply want a bye because they feel entitled.

I also have the privilege and honor of dealing with many other students who have shown remarkable maturity and insight. They have recognized problems that they have and are working to correct those problems. They are the students I like. They realize why they are in school and know that their success depends on them. Even though some of them have found themselves in trouble I have never spoken to their parents about those difficulties. I do know that their parents care, and care deeply, but they are letting their children handle the problems while they provide emotional support. These students will be successful. They are going places and I am proud to be a part of their journey. The others are destined for either failure or a big wake-up call in the future.

As for me, I much prefer those who do not feel they are entitled.

CWID 2008 MPC Day 1

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The CWID Mid-Planning Conference (MPC) began to day. There is a lot of work for us to do to get ready for the exercise in June, but it is fun.

The guest speaker today was Major General Koen A. Gijsbers, Royal Netherlands Army. He spoke about interoperability between nations and pointed out that single nation warfare was essentially a thing of the past. I must say that I agree with him. We have all become too interconnected and the communications technology has brought so much news, so quickly, that it does seem unlikely any major power will go to war alone.

Given the audience he was speaking to, interoperability was a key point. As he stated: We do not do a very good job of communicating between services within a nation; in fact we do not always do a good job of communicating between branches within a single service, so how can we communicate and operate better between nations? This is indeed the purpose of CWID.

General Gijsbers mention one general officer who had 7 computers (and many phones as well) on his desk because they were all attached to different networks and different domains. Although technology would allow them to be interconnected, policies and standard operating procedures would not allow it. He correctly stated that we must not only work the technology side of interoperability; we must also work the policy side. In fact, I wonder if the policy will not prove to be the most difficult piece of the puzzle.

ARTICLE: "Midlevel Officers Show Enterprise, Helping U.S. Reduce Violence in Iraq." By GREG JAFFE.
Wall Street Journal, V. CCL, N. 152, P. A-1, Saturday/Sunday 29-30 December 2007.

This was a nice article on the ability of US military Officers to adapt and implement change, even when it involves bean counters. The article discusses how the officers sought to separate the Sunnis and Shiites to reduce the fighting between them. That is something you do in a fight so it only seems right to do that in Iraq now. Sure, the time will come when the two groups will have to live and work together but let’s keep them apart until they can learn to get along a wee bit better. Of course the officers also set about getting the place functioning again. Opening banks, turning on water, and getting electricity to flow are major factors in establishing peace. This is exactly what I’ve heard from my friends who have been over there. They say the Iraqis are very appreciative when you get them drinking water and get the sewage flowing in the right direction.

But the key to this article is that the officers recognized the need to reach out to the local power brokers and get them involved in the solution. Discussed specifically is a PowerPoint presentation made by Captain Travis Patriquin, 32 at the time, and later killed by a roadside bomb in the Fall of 2006. His PowerPoint slide was simple but effective. It was a stick figure of a soldier sharing tea with a sheik. The caption read, “This is one sheik. They’ve been leading the people of this area for approximately 14,000 years. In spite of many, many conquering armies trying to remove him, this man and his family have been involved in politics here since recorded time began.” Hmmm, makes sense to work with these people, you think?

These officers understand that you need to understand the culture you working in and people you are working with. It is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong, as many people try argue, it is a matter of working together. And yes, the sheiks need to understand us as well so they can work better with us. As I watch the news I seem to see two types of people. On the one side are those Rosie O’Donnell types who are convinced that we are evil incarnate and deserve the attacks of 9/11. On the other side are the ill-informed who believe the Iraqis and Afghanis should be so happy that we are helping them that they simply roll over and do as we say. Fortunately our military officers are able to recognize the truth lies between these two extremes. They realize that it is fine to recognize and work within a culture without having to accept that culture as their own.

Day One Leadership

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We had the final Day One Leadership Program luncheon for the Action Team Leaders. We all got certificates, an umbrella, door prizes, and an item from the grocery store picked by our teams to describe us. I got a bottle of V8 Splash because I “add a splash to the traditional”. It was a fun event but I’m sad it is the end of Day One for year.

One of my team members won the Day One Leadership Idol award from the pod and it was presented to her at the Air Force ROTC Dining In last week. She could not stay for the presentation following their presentation but it all worked out well.

I had a great team and I look forward to doing it again next year.

Army ROTC Contracting Ceremony

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I was invited to attend the Army ROTC Bulldog Battalion Contracting Ceremony today and I went as Commander Green to help demonstrate to these newest of cadets that the military is truly joint today. I was impressive to see 34 young college students stand up and take the oath of office. Some were new to the military, others are serving in a National Guard unit already, all were impressive with their character and their willingness to stand up and take the oath.

They Army ROTC Cadre also took the time to recognize their current students who completes schools over the summer. At a time when most college students went to the beach these went schools such as Airborne, Air Assault, Leadership Training Course, and the Leadership Develop Accession Program.

CENTCOM Point Man Sees Progress in Surge. Navy Times, August 20, 2007, p. 28-29.

Funny, I haven’t heard about this on CNN, Fox, my Internet news feeds, or any other source, but according to Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Morin who works for Admiral Fallon, there slightly more than 70 deaths among US Forces in Iraq in July, the first time the number has fallen below 100 since March. Now I do recall seeing news stories in the last few months about the “highest number of causalities”, the “rising number of casualties”, etc. Always quick to criticize, seldom ever to praise, our main stream media is once again showing how its collective judgment is often flawed.

CSM Morin essentially gives evidence that things are improving in Iraq, security is gradually being restored, and Iraqis are feeling safer. Admittedly it is not happening everywhere, and it will take some time to spread, but things are improving.

One thing the troops need, more PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams), something near and dear to my heart as it is likely to be the subject of my forthcoming dissertation. PRTs really belong to the State Department but they do involve military personnel and are an evolution of tactics started near the end of the Vietnam War.

Way to go Marine!

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Fond on Blackfive.

Thucydides and Petraeus

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It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men.
-Thucydides

I ran across this qoute and think it aptly sums up what is going on between General Petraeus and Congress. Petraeus has a plan, rightly recognizes that it will take time for it to work, and actually expects to be given the time and resources he was promised when he took the job. He expects too much of the Congress.

Seven Days in May

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After being suggested by my major professor, I ordered Seven Days in May from Amazon a few days ago and was able to watch it today. Wow! Great movie with a great theme! What would happen if there was a military coup to take over the government because the politicians were too soft or failed to see an imminent threat? Parallels to events of today? Perhaps.

Navy Times, 09 July 2007, page 29.

The Navy Times was not happy that military movies were lacking from the AFI’s Top 100 films list so they came up with their own. If Navy Times had its way the following would be the Top 10 Military Films:

    10. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
    9. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
    8. The Great Escape (1963)
    7. Top Gun (1986)
    6. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
    5. The Caine Mutiny (1954)
    4. Glory (1989)
    3. Black Hawk Down (2001)
    2. Patton (1970)
    1. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

I can’t really disagree with these but I would have included Gettysburg (1993), and perhaps my personal favorite, Apocalypse Now (1979).

This list compares to the unranked list given in the October 2006 issue of Naval History:


  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

  • They Were Expendable (1945)

  • The Caine Mutiny (1954)

  • Victory at Sea (1952)

  • Hornblower (1999, 2001, 2003)

  • Das Boot (1981)

  • Mister Roberts (1951)


Given I couldn’t get a flight early enough to get me home so that I could unpack, repack, and get back to the airport, combined with my lack of faith in the airlines being able to get luggage back on schedule when it really counts, I opted to stay in Richmond tonight and leave for the ASEE conference in Hawaii from here tomorrow. So, what to do with the day?

I went to Fredericksburg and toured the battleground and cemetery. With all of the houses that have been built and the growth of the trees, it was difficult to get an appreciation of the terrain facing the soldiers of the Civil War. The cemetery was impressive and even more impressive when you realize that there were some 15,000 plus soldiers, many unknown, buried there.

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There were the requisite canons placed here and there and even though I’ve seen more than I can remember, I still felt compelled to take a photo or two.

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Much of the stone wall has been rebuilt over the ages, but there is still a section of the original which remains. I also walked along Telegraph Road, now known as “Sunken Road”. It was from this road, behind the stone wall, that the Confederate soldiers repelled the Union.

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Usually I do not like having tour guides for things like this because they tend to either be too canned, or to have too little knowledge to be useful. Today was an exception though. The historian we had as our guide was a former Park Ranger who was not only very knowledgeable about the site; she made a dramatic impression that conveyed the feelings of the battle rather than just the facts. The best tour I have had was of Gettysburg while at a National Defense University class, but that was given my a staff member of the college who was very knowledgeable about that battle.

Today I drove over to visit George Washington’s Birthplace. The National Park Service site made for a very nice visit. There were a few people around, but not too many. I walked around the grounds and certainly understand why it was selected as a home site.

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There was an interesting house there but, as the park Ranger pointed out, it was not the actual house, nor was it on the actual site. It seems that years ago people took it upon themselves to rebuild our first president’s birthplace (the original burned in 1779). When the well-intentioned folk decided to rebuild the house they built what they thought was befitting a President. The house was built where a marker had been placed indicating it was the birthplace.

Once the site became a national park, the archaeologists started their investigation and found the site of the original house. It was very close (about 50 feet) from where the rebuilt house was. Of course no one knows what the original looked like above ground but the archaeologists did find that it had been built in three stages.

I did enjoy getting out and walking around. There was a workshop, complete with a forge, which my grandfather would have loved. It was quiet and cool and I found my self standing inside the workshop thinking about the time I had spent with my grandfather in is workshop. He loved tools, he loved to collect tools, and I have no doubt that had he had a forge, he would have loved making tools.

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NEW CJCS COMING

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Marine General Peter Pace will not be nominated for a second term as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral Mike Mullen, current Chief of Naval Operations will be nominated as his successor. I have mixed feelings about this. Reportedly General Pace is not being nominated because his re-confirmation process could be “contentious”. Well, shouldn’t it be? Is there not supposed a little tension, a little contentiousness, between the branches of government? That tension is what keeps everyone honest and makes sure the tough questions get answered.

General Pace seems to support the troop increase in Iraq while Congressional Democrats do not. Admiral Mullen, according to news reports, is not so favorable of the troop surge. Of course the articles on the net also mention General Pace’s recent anti-gay comments. Okay, quick poll now, who is surprised that a Marine General opposes gays in the military? Anyone? If you are then are so out of tune with the military, especially the Marine Corps, that you are not qualified to have an opinion. I have to wonder that, if in this day and age where political correctness is valued more the freedom to say what you think, if that is not a major factor in the decision.

My other concern is that Admiral Mullen will be nominated to replace him. Don’t get me wrong, I think, no, I know, Admiral Mullen will do a great job as CJCS. My concern is selfish. Admiral Mullen is making great strides in making changes in the Navy and they seem to be welcomed changes. He has a new uniform in the works, is working the 1000-ship Navy concept, and appears well-respected by those in and out of the Navy. He will do a good job as CJCS but he will be missed as CNO, I think.

There is one thing I have learned over the years however, there is a seemingly limitless supply of talent and leadership in the military, so every time a great leader leaves one position, another comes in to fill the void.

EMBRACE THE SUCK

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While getting ready for work this morning I was listening to “Morning Sedition” from National Public Radio and they did a story on a book entitled Embrace the Suck: A pocket Guide to Milspeak Compiled and Introduced by Col. Austin Bay, an Army Colonel. It sounded interesting so I looked it on the web and found a neat little web site.

The New Pamphleteer offers some neat little books for sale. Well, they are not really books, they are pamphlets. They are inexpensive, about $4.00 per copy, and when you order one you can get a link to download a pdf of the pamphlet.

This is getting back to what I think some of our publishing needs to be. Just as Thomas Paine wrote and distributed Common Sense in pamphlet format, these books are in pamphlet format. They are short and focused. I have to wonder, what would our society be like today if more pamphlets were made available to the general public? Sure, I’ll still read a 300 page book on a topic of interest, but will everyone? Do we need a 300 page book on every topic? I think not. A short pamphlet works just fine for many topics.

Article: "House Democrats Set to Retreat From Effort to Cap Troop Levels", Wall Street Journal, 02 March 2007, p. A4

One thing I cautioned my Sailors against was expecting to see much change in Iraq as a result of the November elections. The Democrats may have gained the majority, but it was not enough to override a veto or, as we have seen lately, not even enough to bring bills up for a vote. According to the WSJ apparently the Democrat’s are now beginning to see that as well.

According to the article, Rep. John Murtha has been humbled. I doubt I would go that far but he has certainly run into some roadblocks. I can’t say that I’m bothered by that, in fact I think the roadblocks are good. I, for one, never understood the purpose of a non-binding resolution. What were the Democrats trying to prove? Were they trying to tell the President that they were unhappy? If so, they needn’t have bothered; I’m confident the President Bush knows the Democrats are unhappy with the situation in Iraq.

Perhaps they are simply schizophrenic. They holding hearings before they confirm General David Petraeus and he makes it clear that he supports a surge in troop level. After the hearings, they confirm him by an overwhelming number. Then they want a resolution to keep the surge from happening. It makes no sense to me, but then I’m not in Congress.

House Republican Leader John Boehner is quoted in the article as saying “For seven weeks Democrats have been all over the block. They have no strategy to stop the war. They have no strategy to win the war. They are the majority here on Capitol Hill. It’s time for them to grow up make a decision.” I can’t say that I agree with him because I fear the decision they might make.

The truth is that Iraq is not another Vietnam. It can be if we yield to those who want to cut funds and withdraw troops. On the other hand, if we tough it out, we just might win. It was our weak response to prior acts of terrorism that led Osama bin Laden to believe we were a paper tiger and hence the reason he was willing to stage the attacks of 11 September 2001. Imagine what would happen if we were to pull out of Iraq too soon. The acts of terrorism on American soil would drastically increase and they could well prove difficult to counter. Yes, the Iraqis need to take a more active role in running their country; yes they need to do more to quell the sectarian violence; yes they need to train more troops; but their failure to so should not result in our withdrawal for we, along with the Iraqis, will suffer.

MPSA PAPER PRESENTED

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I made a quick trip down south to present a paper at the Mississippi and Louisiana Political Science Associations annual meeting. My paper was entitled “Military and Humanitarian Assistance Organizations: Is there Common Ground?” It was an enjoyable trip, even if it was a bit rushed. I had some work to do Friday morning so I left just in time to make it to my panel and then I had to leave afterwards. I would have liked to have stayed for some of the other papers.

I did get to stop in a visit my grandmother and have dinner with my parents on the way home though. Made for a long day but worth the effort.

NAVY 24 -- ARMY 16

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Dateline: Home Study

Or perhaps it should be Navy-Army

I had some thing s going on so I couldn’t watch all of the game but I caught parts here and there. This is always my favorite game of the year; I like it better than even the MSU-University of Mississippi game. Why? Several reasons.

One, the teams realize that this is a game and when the year ends they will be teammates in America’s military. Two, each team has discipline. Sure, they lose their tempers every now and then, but then compare that to other football games. Third, regardless of whether one, both, or neither team is any good, they always play hard. And finally, at the end of the game, both teams sign their alma maters, first in front the losing team’s students, and then in front of the wining team’s students. Now that, my friends, is sportsmanship.

I think that, with a little effort, the MUS team could do the same at the University of Mississippi game, but many of the UM fans I’ve met would not be able to. The UM fans are so bad I have sworn off ever attending another sporting event at their school. By the way, the best fans I met were from Auburn. They seem to be good winners and good losers—although lately they have not had much practice at losing.

Navy 24 – Army 16!

MILITARY BALL

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Dateline: Home Study

My wife and I attended the Army and Air Force ROTC Joint Military Ball held at the Hunter Henry Center on the campus of Mississippi State University. I was invited in my capacity as chair of the Military Affairs Committee of the Greater Starkville Area Development Partnership and there were other committee members present as well. It was a pleasure to be there and do the double duty of representing the Navy as well.

This event was, by and large, planned and executed by the cadets of the Army and Air Force ROTC programs. They did a great job and are truly leaders. There were simply too many things to be done for this event to have come together without that leadership.

There was a reception line entering the room and I happened to be in line behind Becky Wiles of the Oktibbeha County Red Cross, a table-mate for the night, who took this picture of General Foglesong and me as I was entering.

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Of course the teaching of that leadership was done by my friends Lt. Col. Terry Dickensheet of the AFROTC, and LTC Marcus Majure of the Army ROTC.

The keynote speaker for the event was the President of Mississippi State University, General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong. General Foglesong gave an interesting and motivating speech on character and leadership. I have had the privilege of hearing speak on that topic in several other venues, but it was a little different tonight. By speaking to an audience of like-minded people, people in uniform, he was able to make some points that are difficult to make with more general audiences.

Unfortunately, I had been up late for many nights working on a paper so my wife and I did not stay for the dancing that followed. Perhaps next year.

Now all that remains is – Go Navy! Beat Army!

I recevied this by email yesterday and found it to be very mving. It is a little long but well worth the read.

Recent speech by Major General Michael R. Lehnert, USMC Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations West

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Eight days ago, I was present in the audience when Tom Brokaw addressed the 2006 Stanford graduating class. After the initial pleasantries and one-liners, Mr. Brokaw said something unexpected. He told the class that they were the children of privilege, fortunate to be attending one of the finest educational institutions in the country, the anointed because they had both the test scores for admittance and parents who were able to afford their tuition. He noted that they could likely expect rapid advancement in almost any endeavor they choose and that they were destined to lead the most powerful country in the world.

The class was beaming.

And then Brokaw reminded them that the liberties and freedoms they enjoyed were being defended by young people their age that did not have their advantages. That at this time thousands of men and women were fighting, dying and suffering debilitating injury to ensure that the rest of us could live the American dream.

There was an uncomfortable shifting in the seats, followed by slow but growing applause from the audience.

When we sent my son to Stanford four years ago, we filled out a form asking for demographic information. One of the questions for the parents said, what is your profession? After it was a list of about thirty professions including doctor, lawyer, congressman, educator, architect. Military was not listed so I filled in “other”

My son was the only graduate who had a parent serving in the armed forces. As I was introduced to his friends’ parents, it was interesting to watch their reaction. Few had ever spoken to a member of the military. One asked me how my son was able to gain admittance with the disadvantage of having to attend “those DoD schools”. Many voiced support for our military and told me that they’d have served but clearly military service was not for their kind of people.

This year of the so-called elite schools, Princeton led them with nine graduates electing military service. Compare that with 1956 when over 400 of the Princeton graduating class entered the military. Most of the other Ivy League schools had no one entering the military this year.

I wonder how many of you know the young people who are serving today. I won’t embarrass anyone by asking for a show of hands to ask how many really know a young enlisted Marine who has been to war.

I’m going to try to give you a better feel about those who serve our nation.

Our Marines tend to come from working class families. For the most part, they came from homes where high school graduation was important but college was out of their reach. The homes they come from emphasize service. Patriotism isn’t a word that makes them uncomfortable.

The global war on terrorism has been ongoing for nearly five years with Marines deployed in harms way for most of that time. It is a strange war because the sacrifices being levied upon our citizens are not evenly distributed throughout society. In fact, most Americans are only vaguely aware of what is going on.

That isn’t the case aboard the Marine bases in Southern California where we see the sacrifice everyday as we train aboard those open spaces that you covet for other purposes. Many of our Marines are married and 70% of our married Marines live in your communities, not aboard Marine bases. These Marines coach your soccer teams. They attend your places of worship. They send their kids to your schools. However, in many ways they are as different from the rest of the citizens of Southern California as my son was different from the rest of the students at Stanford.

One of the huge differences between the rest of society and our Marine families, is when Marine daddies and mommies go to work, some of them never come home. The kids know that. The spouses know that. Week after week we get reports of another son, father, husband who won’t be coming back. During the past four years, over 460 Marines from Southern California bases have been killed by the enemy.107 more have died in Iraq and Afghanistan due to accidents. 6500 have been wounded some of them multiple times.

You will never know or meet Brandan Webb age 20 or Christopher White age 23 or Ben Williams age 30. They were all assigned to First Battalion First Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California. They were some of the Marines who died this week out of Marine bases in Southern California.

Last Friday, we hosted a golf tournament at Camp Pendleton to raise money for wounded Marines. There are a lot of expenses that the government cannot legally pay for from appropriated funds. The people who attended the tournament genuinely wanted to help and we invited a couple of dozen wounded Marines to golf with them. As I watched the teams leave for a shotgun start, I saw three Marines sitting by themselves and went over to talk to them. Clearly they’d been told by their chain of command that this was their appointed place of duty. They were sitting in the sun chatting, probably not unhappy with the duty but mildly uncertain as to why they were there. I asked them why they weren’t golfing and they said that they’d never learned. No one in their families ever played golf and that this was the first time they’d ever been on a golf course. I asked them how many times they’d deployed. One of the young men had just returned from his third deployment and had been wounded every time. The others teased him for being a bullet magnet. I asked him if he was going to stay in and he thought for a moment what to say to a general and he said, “I think I’d like to try college. No one in my family has ever gone.”

I asked these Marines if I could buy them a beer. They looked at me and smiled. One of them said, “We can’t ask you to break the rules sir. None of us are 21 yet.”

They seemed much older. As I left them I wondered about a policy that gives a young man the power of deciding who will live and who will die but won’t let him drink a beer. I thought about these young Americans who had never shot golf but had shot and killed other men in order to carry out foreign policy.

On the 10th of August we will open a wounded warrior barracks at Camp Pendleton. Few taxpayers’ dollars were used. We were able to raise the money through the Semper Fidelis fund to house those Marines who no longer need to be hospitalized but who suffer debilitating injuries and need follow-on care. Heretofore, when regiments left for the war, they left their non-deployables behind. These Marines often had to live in WWII era barracks with open squad bays and gang heads down the hallway. Those having limited mobility found it difficult and uncomfortable. It was no way to treat our wounded warriors. We’re fixing it.

Now let me introduce you to another enlisted Marine. His name is Brendan Duffy. Brendan was an infantry Marine. Like so many others, Brendan had dreams of going to college but no means to do so. While he was in the Corps, he immediately began using his Montgomery GI bill benefits by enrolling in Mira Costa College. Though deployed soon after signing up for college, he took his textbooks to war. Last month he received Mira Costa’s highest award for academic excellence, the Medal of Honor for Academic Excellence. Brendan described studying pre-calculus while fragments from explosions struck the sandbag shelter he was in.

Brendan left the Corps this week and has been accepted to the University of California Los Angeles to study math and economics.

Later this morning I’ll be meeting with educators across the California University system. We are trying to make California more veteran friendly. California hosts 40% of the combat power of the Marine Corps and 40% of the Marine veterans who leave the Corps do so out of Southern California bases. 96% have participated in the Montgomery GI Bill and are eligible for benefits but only a small number enter the California University system. That’s because California, unlike other states did not provide any veterans preference or even reach out to veterans. These combat veterans score in the top 50% of their age group, are drug free and morally straight but are lost to California and return to other states that aggressively work to attract them.

Several months ago, I along with senior leadership of all the Services, met with Governor Schwarzenegger and told him that California was not an education friendly state for military veterans. To his credit, he is trying to change that and this meeting today is a natural outgrowth of his support.

In Iraq, the media talks about the casualties. They seldom report the successes. I don’t think that this is intentional. It is just more difficult to quantify progress and reduce it to a sound bite.

Some of you may recall almost exactly two years ago when a four man sniper team from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines was killed on a rooftop in Ramadi. It made news because sniper teams aren’t supposed to get ambushed and because an M40A1 sniper rifle was now in the hands of the enemy.

Over the next two years, that rifle was used against Americans and we wanted it back. Last week, a 21 year old Marine sniper from 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marines out of Camp Pendleton observed a military aged male videotaping a passing patrol of amphibious assault vehicles near Camp Habbaniya. After radioing the patrol and telling them to stay low, the Marine watched the man aiming a sniper rifle that looked remarkably like his own.

He killed the enemy sniper with one round to the head. Seconds later, another insurgent entered on the passenger side and was surprised to see his partner dead. That hesitation was enough time to allow Sgt Kevin Homestead age 26 to kill the insurgent before he could drive off.

When the Marines went down to inspect the scene, they saw that the sniper rifle was one of their own. It was the same M-40A1 sniper rifle looted from the 2/4 sniper team exactly two years earlier.

We are making progress in Iraq. The Iraqi Army is more capable each month. In the Anbar province we have brought the 1st Iraqi Division - the most capable of the Iraqi formations - to the former British RAF base of Habbaniyah - between Fallujah and Ramadi. We are standing up the 7th Division. In Baghdad, Iraqi brigades own parts of the city and are reporting directly to the US Army Division commander as component units.

The Iraqi Police are the essential element - and the most difficult challenge. In any insurrection, the insurgent specifically targets the local security elements of the government - because they are essential to maintaining control via interaction with the community, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement against petty and organized crime, traffic control. These police units are having good success in places like Fallujah. Ramadi is a different kettle of fish. Some of the police departments haven’t been paid in months and the intimidation campaign is in full force.

My Chief of Staff, Colonel Stu Navarre formerly the Commander of the 5th Marine Regiments told me this story. One day in December, the Ramadi Police Dept Operations Officer (#3 in the pecking order) did not come to work. When we inquired, he told us that the day before his 10 year old son had been kidnapped after school and transported to the north side of Ramadi. He was called by the kidnappers and advised of his son's location. When the Operations Officer arrived at the location, he found his son alive, with a note pinned to his shirt, "If you go to work tomorrow, you will never see your son again. We know where you live. "I wonder how many of us would show up for work with that kind of intimidation.

Your fellow Americans in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing a superb job in the most dangerous places on earth. They believe in what they are doing. The majority of the sergeants, corporals, and privates enlisted after 9-11. They knew what they were signing up for. They want to deploy in defense of the nation. We are sending best leadership to the combat zone. Service in Iraq/Afghanistan has become the norm for our Marine and Army leaders, and an essential part of their experience/qualifications for advancement. Finally, the American people have continued to demonstrate an unprecedented level of support for their fellow Americans in uniform - as well as the understanding that these young men and women are executing the policies of their elected representatives.

Reconstructing an entire nation takes time. Think about our own experience during the American Revolution. Despite having a homogeneous nation with no incipient insurgency, it was thirteen years from the Revolution to the ratification of the Constitution. We seem to have forgotten that it takes time to build institutions.

Introduction of a stable, representative form of government in Iraq is revolutionary in its impacts on the region and the world. Iraq is at the center of the Mid-East, the Arab world, and Shia Islam. Iraq has been, and will continue to be a major producer of natural resources - especially oil. It is at the center of the chess board. Iraq separates two sponsors of terrorism - Iran and Syria - and with Afghanistan - isolates Iran. It is no coincidence that Muammar Qadaffi has sensed the change in the wind and sought to distance himself from terrorism and WMD and become a legitimate player in world politics.

The Iraqis are capable of running Iraq. Today, thousands of young Iraqis are lining up to become soldiers and policemen - despite constant, highly lethal attacks on recruiting stations, police stations, and army checkpoints. Concurrently, there is no more dangerous job than being a candidate for office or an elected official in Iraq. We should not underestimate the absolute danger to any Iraqi that steps up to plate for law, order, and progress. The enemy is absolutely committed to winning. For him, there is really no other option. He also understands that the center of gravity is the commitment of the American people.

One of my major concerns is quality of life issues for our Marines, Sailors and their families. We are making significant progress but we have a long way to go.

We are building 1600 more homes at Miramar to give our Marines and Sailors decent places to live. California is a beautiful State. It is also extraordinarily expensive and we are the gypsies in your castle often driving 50 or 60 miles one way to because those are the only places that our junior Marines can afford to live.

We are replacing worn out World War II vintage barracks that we make our single Marines live in. When I took over, I visited some of the open squad bay barracks at Camp Horno in Pendleton. A young Marine corporal and veteran of the fighting in Iraq looked at me and said, “Sir, I lived better in Fallujah.” That hurt but he was right. A couple of weeks later I had a chance to talk to the Commandant and tell him the same story. I told him that at the rate we were replacing barracks, we wouldn’t have decent enlisted quarters until 2036. To his credit, he listened and we now plan to have them replaced by 2013. This won’t come without a cost because the Marine Corps doesn’t get more money to build barracks, we have to realign our priorities and not buy other things that we need. It was a significant decision by our senior leadership but the right thing to do.

With our Navy partners we are going after Pay Day Lenders. Pay Day Lenders are the parasites found outside of our military bases in Southern California who pray on young Marines and Sailors because the lenders know they are uninformed consumers. Pay day lenders take advantage that California has some of the weakest laws in the country. In North Carolina, pay day lenders are limited to 36% annual percentage rates of interest. Here in San Diego we regularly see rates of 460% and I have seen rates as high as 920% being charged legally against our service members. Service members go into a cycle of debt. Ultimately because we expect our Marines to be financially responsible, their ability to reenlist, compete for good jobs and keep a security clearance is effected.

Let me be clear. Pay day lenders are not providing our Marines with a service. They are parasites, bottom feeders and scumbags. One of them sent me a note recently telling me that he was a member of an honorable profession and that I should back off. He told me that a pay day lending institution had been found in the ruins of Pompey after Mount Vesuvius erupted. I responded to him that archeologists also found a whore house and that antiquity did not bequeath virtue. It is a shameful practice.

We also recognize that military leaders have a responsibility to educate our service members and their families about sound money management. We are doing that. We are using our base papers, information campaigns and personal intervention to tell them that there are alternatives to the pay day lending institutions.

Both the State and Federal legislatures have heard our message as well and there are bills making their way through the process to significantly curtail the excesses of payday lenders.

I know that many of you came here today to find out what I would say about the airport situation at Miramar. So as not to disappoint you, let me be clear.

The Marines came to Miramar ten years ago as a result of a BRAC decision and four subsequent BRAC rounds determined that the interrelationship of the Marine and Navy bases in Southern California provided a capability that was unmatched anywhere in the country.

The Marine Corps uses its bases as a projection platform for combat power. 25,000 Marines from California bases are presently deployed in harms way and over 3,000 of them are from Miramar.

Through the years, we have accommodated our neighbors development needs. Often we allowed infrastructure that was unpopular elsewhere but vital to the community. San Diego’s primary landfill is located at Miramar. A nuclear generation facility sits aboard Marine Corps property at Camp Pendleton and powers 2.2 million Southern California homes. We want to be good neighbors and work hard at it.

We examined the proposal for joint use of Miramar carefully, provided all data requested and saw that data ignored. Joint use does not work at Miramar. Thus the real issue is whether you want a civilian airport at Miramar or Marines.

If you want us to leave, you should say so. However you must understand that no matter what names are used to describe us in the Union Tribune, the decision whether or not to leave do not rest with the military leadership in Southern California. It rests with your elected leaders and most of them have clearly put defense needs above local requirements and said no to Miramar. The decision rests with the appointed civilian leadership in the department of defense. They’ve said no as well.

Sadly this controversy has effected local civil military relations. There is no way you can sugar coat it or pretend otherwise. But we are here. If our leadership tells us to leave we will. We will take our Marines, our families, our wounded and if necessary we will dig up our dead. However right now our leadership says we stay. And whether or not we remain in San Diego, the Marine Corps is committed to protecting your liberties and your freedoms.

We know that this is a difficult issue. We know that we have many friends in San Diego but we also know that we have others who see the economic potential of development of the military installations. They say that they love the military but would rather love them somewhere else than in their backyard.

If you take nothing away from this talk, I’d hope you understand and appreciate what a remarkable group of young people currently serve in your Armed Forces today. Want to know what Marine Generals talk about when we are together? We talk about what a remarkable privilege it is to lead these extraordinary Americans.

I started by mentioning Tom Brokaw. His book coined the phrase, "The Greatest Generation,” and our nation responded in kind. Twenty years from now we may recognize that this young generation currently serving has the same qualities of greatness.

On the battlefield today are future CEO’s of corporations, university presidents, congressmen, state governors, Supreme Court justices and perhaps a future president of the United States.

Take the time to meet one of these young people. You won’t be disappointed.

HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS

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Dateline: Boston Marriott, Copley Place

John Gonsalves, President and Founder of Homes for Our Troops gave a very moving talk about his organization and what it is doing to our disabled veterans. Home for Our Troops was John's brainchild and is proving to be very successful. This organization is doing great things and is deserving of support.

What was truly impressive about John's presentation were the stories he told about the generosity of Americans. He related stories of anonymous donors giving thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars. But he also had many stories of the average working American who shows up to donate time and services building houses. More proof that Americans are giving people.

A Camp Divided by Greg Jaffe, WSJ Weekend Edition, 17 June 2006, Page A1.

A good story this weekend about two different types of Colonels in Iraq and the conflicts they have. On one side we have Col. Charles Payne, on the other side we have Col. James Pasquarette. Both are well-educated, both have the best interests of their troops, their country, and Iraq at heart, both have radically different ides on how to achieve their goals.

Col. Payne wants to shoot 'em up. He favors kicking butt and taking names and using Iraqi troops to help in the process. Col. Pasquarette favors a slower, more deliberate, kinder, friendlier way. Col. Pasquarette wants to build relationships and raport with the locals and win their hearts and minds with kindness. Col. Payne wants to win their hearts and minds too, but using different tactics.

As Tom Barnett mentions in his blog, this is a clash of Leviathan and Sysadmin forces. Sysadmn may rule the day but the Leviathan also has a role to play and will not simply disappear. I think the real solution lies in getting the two to work together.

All in all, today was nice day. The church servoce was good, lunch was good, the nap was good, and a visit from a friend was good.

I put the final touches on the Memorial Day Ceremony for tomorrow, worked up some scripts to help with the music and sound system operation. The Boy Scouts are going to help us and I want to make sure they understand how everything should work. Yesterday morning I picked up the wreath, the committee co-chair picked up the sound system so graciously loaned to us by Backstage Music, and I got the programs folded (thanks to the folder at the church office).

Tomorrow my parents will be here for the service, mainly to hear Kathryn sing, and then hang around for a cookout afterwards. We invited some friends to come over as well. I even go some Navy work done today, with a little more to finish tomorrow.

Things are looking up. The Memorial Day Service is coming together. I found out this morning that a committee memebr and one of his friends will do a flyover for us as we play taps and rasie the flag. He will be flying a Stearman and his friend will fly a T6. We've been working o nthe ceremony for a few weeks and things are really coming together. It is a nice feeling when things work!

Dateline: Home Study

I'm enjoying a little of Spring Break this week, and putting off some course work I really need to do, but I also felt a need to catch up on some reading. A couple of articles seem to indicate that things in Iraq are not as bad as the media makes them out to be. No surprise, based on the other sources of information I have.

Iraq Withdrawal: A Tragedy in Slow Motion by Colonel Norvell B. De Atkine, USA (Ret), US Naval Institute Proceedings, March 2006, V131 N3 P12.

Basic argument is that withdrawing from Iraq at this time is not an option. The US is needed to stabilize not only Iraq, but also the Middle East. He also discusses the possibility of dividing Iraq into separate countries and says that is not an option. Out right civil war is unlikely, but insurgencies will continues. Arguments about legitimate government need to first define legitimate. On of the major points he makes, and I have to agree with, is that the US does not understand the Middle Eastern way of war.

I find it hard to believe that people are even thinking of dividing Iraq into three countries. Did we not learn anything from the likes of Yugoslavia? Part of the problem now is, in my opinion, the way the Middle East was carved up long ago, further divisions would likely only create greater feelings of divisiveness.

The Paradox of International Action, Francis Fukuyama, The American Interest, V1 N3 P7.

One point: The United Nations is a distraction to both the left and the right. The UN is not capable of enforcing any of its resolutions and its legitimacy is even questionable at times. Fukuyama seems to be saying that coalitions of the willing may well be the wave of the future in conjunction with other, perhaps more complex international organizations. He points out that we have many international standards which were developed without the UN.

I am also pretty impressed with The American Interest, even though it is only in its third issue. The articles are well-written, enjoyable, and informative. Many of them are also thought provoking and seem to be less biased than many other journals. Of course “unbiased” really means I agree with their bias.

Security Council Waivers on Taking Tehran to Task, by Cara Anne Robbins and Guy Chazan. Wall Street Journal, 15 March 2006, Vol. CCXLVII No. 61 p. A6.

See Fukuyama above. The United Nations is incapable of doing anything with Iran so it is reluctant to try and do anything. Again, coalitions created off-line will most likely be root of solution to the difficulty. The US, because it has little to no trade with Iran, has little to exercise as far as economic sanctions. Because of the oil exported to Europe, it is not clear what the European countries will be willing to do. Again, the UN is ineffective in many matters of security.

NO BOOK REVIEW YET

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Dateline: Home Study

I was disappointed a little this morning. I emailed the National Defense University yesterday after reading the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly and offered to review a book they need reviewed. This morning I got email that something strange had happened and there had actually been two previous requests in the last few days to review the book and it has already been sent out. So, because I'd like to get a review published in the JFQ, I offered to review another. We'll see what happens.

24 STAR LETTER

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Dateline: Home

A cartoon in the 29 January 2006 Washington Post was a little on the insensitive side, so much so that all of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have written a letter to editor of the Post. The letter will be published tomorrow, supposedly, by the Post.

A copy of the letter is here, and a Navy Times story can be found here.

MILITARY DEATH TOLL IN IRAQ

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Dateline: Home Study

Up until today, listening to the news you would think there were a record number of soldiers killed in Iraq in 2005. After, we are losing the war, the Iraqis hate, people are dropping left and right…at least that is what the liberals want us to believe. The truth is much different, something you can find by reading the many blogs of soldiers who are in theater.

And what about that record death toll? Well, the Associated Press put the death toll of American Soldiers this year at 841, five LESS than last year. Wait a minute. I thought things were going worse than last year! Okay, those are still 841 Patriots we lost this year doing their duty, and the death of any one of this is a tragedy, but the death toll seems to be headed in the right direction (down), and opposite the direction the media has led us to believe.

Today’s Washington Post states that the DC Medical Examiner’s Officer is a wee bit backlogged on autopsies, some 1,037 are incomplete, including 84 homicides. Granted, some of those cases go back a decade, and not all autopsies are the result of homicides, but they did report 1,163 were performed last year. That’s a lot of deaths that need an autopsy and it helps put the Iraq death toll in perspective. Over eight hundred American deaths in a country at war compared to over 1,000 deaths in an American city not at war. The web reports that there were 248 murders and homicides in Washington DC in 2003.

Dateline: Home Study

Abouit a year and a half ago, while doing my last in residence portion of the AJPME and the Joint Forces Staff College, I got email from one of my old COs. We had been talking in class about the amount of reading required (this was even more true in the Naval War College classes) and we all made the standard joke that "it's only a lot of reading if you do it". Then I got this email which is ginving General Mattis' take on reading military history. I think the message applies to any reading done to better yourself and have forwarded the message on to others. I always seem to have a hard finging it though, so I am posting it here for easy reference.

Subject: MajGen Mattis on Reading Military History


ALCON,

As someone who has worked with MajGen Mattis in OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, I can personally testify to his keen abilities that he credits to his extensive reading and study of military history over the course of a long career. Please read and ponder the below: the first E-mail is from a Colonel at National Defense University who hears the usual "it's only a lot of reading if you do it" type comments...and the second is MajGen Mattis' extremely pointed and eloquent response. Would love to see this reprinted somewhere....


Sir,

I was having a discussion with one of my seminars this week regarding value of professional reading in response to COS of USAF providing all USAF TLS students books from the AF pro reading list. The response from some of my uniformed service students genuinely astounded me--"too busy to read", "NATOPS is all I need to know", "if it is anything more than TTP, I don't have time for it." I was curious if I could impose upon your time to share with me your thoughts on professional reading, and if possible, what books/reading material you had with you when deployed as TF-58 and to Iraq. General, as always, I'm appreciative of your time and energies, but I really don't want this teaching opportunity to pass by. I've also attached another gouge file that may be of use, if your G-2 doesn't already have.


Very respectfully and Semper Fidelis,

Bear

Colonel Barett Byrd, USMC
Professor of Military Strategy and Logistics
Industrial College of the Armed Forces
National Defense University

From: Mattis MajGen James N
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2003 9:22 PM
To: Byrd, Barett
cc: Kelly BGen John F
Subject: RE: Professional Reading

Bear:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men's experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others' experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

With TF 58, I had w/ me Slim's book, books about the Russian and British experiences in AFG, and a couple others. Going into Iraq, "The Siege" (about the Brits' defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req'd reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim's book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom"; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and "From Beirut to Jerusalem". I also went deeply into Liddel Hart's book on Sherman, and Fuller's book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the "4th Generation of War" intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say... "Not really": Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.

We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. "Winging it" and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of competence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don't know a hell of a lot more than just the TTPs? What happens when you're on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher HQ can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy's adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance -- in the information age, things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don't know what the warning signs are -- that your unit's preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?

Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy's will are not allowed that luxury. This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting -- Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel's Papers (remember "Kampstaffel"?), Montgomery's book ("Eyes Officers"...), "Grant Takes Command" (need for commanders to get along, "commanders' relationships" being more important than "command relationships"), and some others. As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn't waste their lives because I didn't have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.

Hope this answers your question, Bear. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.


Semper Fi,

Mattis

Dateline: Home Study

I've been asked several times or heard comments several times, over the last day or two, asking why the military did not respond faster to the hurricane. The answer is really quite simple--Title X of the US Code. To make it plain and simple: this is the United States of America, not Iraq. We have civilians who control civil law, not military.

Compound the problem further by the New Orleans Police Department officers who resigned. They certainly have no honor, no courage, no commitment. If the Mayor and Governor have any leadership qualities, they will pass a law forbidding those cowards from ever holding a public job again.

The National Guard can essentially be deputized by their respective governors and can then enforce laws, but the active duty can not.

Why didn't they get there sooner to provide humanitarian relief? Again, you have to first ask and then it takes time. From what I've seen the Navy actually began executing a plan before the storm hit but it takes times. If you put troops close, they become casualties. If you put ships in the Gulf of Mexico, they sink.

There was also a lot of damage. When the storm moved on and the winds died down there was very little infrastructure left. Roads were blocked, bridges washed away. I heard last night that some National Guard trucks were stranded in Meridian, Mississippi because they didn't have fuel. Why? It was a combination of the lack of electricity to pump fuel and the freaking idiots in the state (and now surrounding states) who panicked and made a run on gas.

Will it be better in the near future? Certainly. Will we have fuel here soon? I hope. Of course all the fans who came to town to see a football game that should have been canceled have surely consumed what little there was available earlier today. I wonder, is "I can't get gas" an excuse to miss work? I would not be surprised if we did not hear that reason in the next few days, particularly for those who commute to work from out of town.

KATRINA

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Dateline: Home Study

Katrina has come and gone, leaving death and destruction in her path. We suffered relatively little here. We lost electricity for a little over two days—nothing compared to how long it will be out in the southern parts of the state. Katrina certainly made us all aware of the power of Mother Nature and the relative powerlessness of man, especially man without electricity.

Without electrons I had no computer and pretty much everything I need is on the computer. I’ll move more of it on to my laptop but what I really need are removable hard drives. We use them in the military when working on the “high side” so that they can be locked up in the safe, but wouldn’t it be nice to have them at home for emergencies? In the event of an evacuation you could simply pull the hard drive and take it with you. Would that not be better than trying to pull paper files with insurance information?

It was also hot, especially at night. There have been editorials written about how we used to survive in the olden days without air conditioning. Yep, we sure did. I was a teenager before I lived in a house with air conditioning…in the southeastern United States! But you know, we always had a fan or two. At least at night, when the wind died down outside, we could have breeze blowing through the house. And those days were before the energy crisis of the 1970’s after which houses were super-insulated and sealed. In other words, in the olden days, houses were designed to function without air conditioning, today they are not. I wish the editorialists could remember that.

The other thing we are learning is that there are disasters and there are DISASTERS. Most of what we deal with throughout the year are isolated incidents such as a tornado. The damage is localized and relatively few people are affected. We can then send in huge assets to a small area and really work the problem. September 11, as tragic as it was, fell into this category. The Pentagon in DC and World Trade Center in New York were local sites. Panic spread and cities were affected but even then it was still localized and the infrastructure, for the most part, was functioning. Katrina is just the opposite—A large area was affected, infrastructure was not just damaged but is missing, and we can send in huge resources but they are spread over a large area. It will take a while to recover.

I also learned how stupid some people can be. Yes, stupid. True, some of the people in Katrina’s path couldn’t evacuate but many could. You can see them every night on the news now, especially in New Orleans, screaming for the government to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into. Yes, there are arguments that they didn’t have cars. Well look past the people and tell me what you see underwater. I see lots of cars and SUV’s. No, some people were stupid enough to ride it out and now they are paying the price. Unfortunately it cost some of them their lives. And it is not like this was unheard of. When you mention Camille in this state people immediately think of the 1969 hurricane, not some girl they met last week.

The people of New Orleans are an embarrassment to the entire South. It irritates me to see their complaints. Most of them should have left and then those who couldn’t have left would have been able to be rescued. Those who are suffering now are suffering, to a great extent, because of those who could have left but didn’t. Yes, they should feel guilty.

We are also getting a good sight of the lack of leadership in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Mayor Ray Nagin (D) had no plan for his city. Today he escorted visitors to the front of the line to get a bus out of town…in front of those who have been waiting for days. I’m sure he will not be re-elected. Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) had no plan for her state. Amidst the screams of where is the federal government I must ask, where is the state and local government and where is there request for help. No one expects the mayor, the governor, or even the entire state to handle this alone but why were they not doing more? Why did they not ask for help? This is a republic where we value the rights of individual states. I think we generally oppose have the federal government step in until they are asked. Bottom line, more could have been done and it could have been done sooner, but the problem is not at the federal level.

I have also been embarrassed by the people of my state and my town. We now have a gas shortage because of complete idiots ran to the gas pumps in fear of a shortage and filled up their SUVs and 55 gallon drums with gas. There is not and never was a shortage but there is now because of outright stupid people making a mess of things because they are not capable of engaging their brains! There really are some outright stupid people wandering around. The rumors I heard about refineries shutting down were downright silly and I’m sad that more people did not see them for what they were—rumors.

A similar thing happened following 11 September. Fortunately I was in Norfolk (with reasonable people) while an idiotic elected official in our area actually told people to go get gas because it was going to run out. Now how could he have said that? Idiocy!

Tomorrow we play our first football game of the season. I’ll probably not be there because I think it is ridiculous that we are even playing. This state is asking for federal aid but we are not going to let it interfere with football! A few days ago the prospect that hotels would be turning out those who sought shelter from the hurricane to make room for fans coming in for the game. Some actually contacting those with reservations and they all said “cancel my reservation”. So there are some good, reasonable people out there.

Of course last night on the news the university “leadership” was trying to work out something and doing a little hand wringing. They asked fans to consider canceling their reservations. Hmmm. All it would have taken from the “leadership” was a declaration that the game was postponed, and that problem would have gone away.

Strong leaders are hard find. It takes strength to make decisions quickly and to make the tough calls. Being a leader is more than being boss, and is more than surrounding yourself in the trappings of leadership. While I’m disappointed with “leaders” at many levels, Haley Barbour (R) is coming through as a champ. I think he showing the nation what a leader is, just a Rudy Giuliani (R) did on September 11. Is it just me or is they a definite (D) and (R) thing going on here? Effective leaders, (R); ineffective leaders (D).

Another sign of good leadership is the ability to stay calm under stress. Anyone who watched the news can attest to the fact the Ray Nagin (D) and the NOPD Chief have been anything but calm. They must settle down, lower the tones of their voices, and instill confidence in the citizens of their city. Their current actions are leading to more problems. Fortunately communications within the city are limited so most within the city are not able to hear their ranting.

And a final lesson is that communications must be improved, especially in times of disaster or problems. Four County EPA was unwilling to even give estimates of when power would be restored. They said they had learned that estimates were always wrong and they wouldn’t make them. Well, two words of advice. First, find out how to make better estimates so that they are not always wrong. Second, your customers would like to have estimates so they could plan. Will be a few hours in which case we will wait it out or will it be days/weeks in which we may wish to go spend some time with friends and family? I really don’t think that is asking too much. When I talked to people who can not even give me an estimate my immediate assumption is that they do not have a plan.

One of the most frequently heard comments from the people in New Orleans is “tell us what to do”. They need information and no one is able to give them any. Why, because they do not have a plan. That is a sad state of affairs and, in my opinion, indicates what a true lack of leadership they have. With the military stepping in now, there will be a plan and things will get must better, much faster.

I’ve exercised with the military, government, and civilian organizations in the past. Things are going to get better because those exercises showed me that the military and FEMA are the best organized institutions I’ve ever seen. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is on the scene now and is obviously taking charge.

Dateline: Renaissance Worthington Hotel, Fort Worth, TX

A good day of workshop. Lots of good information put out. Much of the material was old news but nice to hear again and refresh my memory. There were lots of people like me, those who are in the second or more command which lends more credibility to the adage that early command begets more command.

The highlight of the day was a two hour VTC with Vice Admiral Cotton. I’ve the good Admiral several times in the past via VTC and once in person. He is truly an enthusiastic person who makes you want to join the Navy. He also gets it. He understands what it is like to be a deckplate Sailor and to be a unit Commanding Officer. He gets pissed off at the same thing we get pissed off about and he tries to fix the problem. My favorite quote today was from him… “That which interests me, fascinates many.” Well said. I’ve been accused of making too many references to Admiral Cotton when I talk to my Sailors but if they could hear him in person they would understand why. What he says is on point and true. What more can you ask from a Flag?

The workshop was followed by a nice social at the Flying Saucer pub (great stouts). The night ended with a good meal and good wine at the Fort Worth Chop House. I had a great steak and some really good Sterling Merlot.

All in all I’m looking forward to this command. I will have more officers than ever before which should really help things run smoothly and the REDCOM seems to have the right mindset, a major factor in what it takes to be successful.

And another good part, I got a good image of the Don’t Tread On Me Flag for my laptop desktop.

PCO CONFERENCE IN FORT WORTH

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Dateline: Renaissance Worthington, Fort Worth, TX

Arrive this evening for a Prospective Commanding Officer’s Conference tomorrow and Sunday. As always it was a stressful trip with Always Slow Airlines (ASA). First we had a ground hold because it was raining in Atlanta. Then we were put in a holding pattern for about 20 minutes because traffic was backed up. And then, to top it all off, as the entire was sweating making their connecting flights, we sat on the ground waiting for, according to the pilot, the ground crew to come out and direct us a gate.

Weather is not something you can really blame the airline for except for the fact that there have been summer afternoon thundershowers in Atlanta for millennia; you think someone would catch on to the pattern. The sitting on the ground awaiting instructions is squarely an ASA problem.

As I arrived in Terminal D I checked the schedule to see my next flight was boarding in Terminal A. After pressing through the lazy people who insist on standing and “riding” the escalator I made it time to board the flight. Flying in steerage is not any fun. Apparently the airplane designers are all small people and have never seen anyone who is somewhat “normal”. I’m not that big, I’m really not, but my shoulders always seem to take up more than the seat allows for and at 6’-0” I never have room to stretch my legs. Usually this is not a problem because there is some petite young woman sitting next to me and everything works fine. But today I had an even bigger man next to me and we were uncomfortable.

I am saying at a Marriott and I really like their hotels. This one is especially nice and seems very comfortable. I’m about to try out the bed in a few minutes.

The conference should be interesting and I’m sure I’ll learn something but with this being my fifth command I question whether there is perhaps a better way to do some of this. Of course I get paid because I am on AT orders having used all my drills last month. I did however learn that my unit is having travel reimbursement issues following our trip to Italy. I think we got some of the problems straightened out today but others remain. I continue to have a problem with the talk of Core Values on one hand and then a bunch bean counting DK’s and other clerks assuming everyone is trying to get something by on a travel claim. Would I really have spent over $1300 on a hotel if government berthing had been available? I think not.

Highlight of the day: Much more of Harry Potter was read on the plane.

COMMISSIONING CEREMONY

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Dateline: Home Study

I went to the commissioning ceremony for Army and Air Force ROTC cadets today. It was good to see some friends who have detached and moved away as well as see some new friedns who have just arrived.

The best part of the day was to see the nervous yet excited cadets taking their oaths of office and the smiling parents/grandparents/spouses and firneds with them. Seeing this bunch brings home to the point there is an awfully lot that is right about today's college graduates.

Dateline: Fairfield Inn Greensboro, NC

Arrived tonight in Greensboros for drill after another long trip. I left work later than planned (I always do) but had a meeting with someone interviewing for a faculty position. It was a nice meeting and the position is one of the more visible. Worth the delay.

Of course the delay meant hitting Atlanta traffic at the wrong time. I keep thinking that one day Atlanta will get this traffic thing figured out but they seem to do it. At least I don't live there and have to deal with it everyday. Lots of people on the road tonight for some reason. Lots of people who shouldn't be on the road tonight. I continue to be amazed at how many poor drivers there are and how they can block all lanes of traffic, and I'll not even start on the inconsiderate truck drivers out there. There are some nice ones but nothing like just a few years ago.

During the drive I did have some time to think, listen to the news, and catch some talk radio. Bill O'Reilly was really down on the Brits for being anti-American based on editorials in British papers. I think he's just plain wrong. If editorials were reflective of the people's thinking and feelings, then the New York Times would have Al Gore in his second term as President.

While at the Current Strategy Forum at the Naval ar College, a German militarry person was asked, in effect, why weren't the Germans more supportive of America. After talking for a while, he finally made the point that there is a difference between the German government and the German people. Hmmm, just like in America. Perhaps just like in Great Britain? Yea, I think so.

Put some more thought into the Leadership Academy. More on it later.

PLANS IN THE MAKING

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Dateline: Home Study

I spent some time today working out a budget for a new center dealing with engineering and public policy issues. Quite an experience. We have some really good plans if we can only get the money to put them in action.

I also spent a little time thinking about an Op-Ed I've been asked to write. I have some ideas and they are coming together so maybe I can sit down and write some over the weekend.

Today I received an invitation to a change of command ceremony of a friend and truly regret that I'll be out of the country and not able to attend. That really bites big time becasue is one CoC I would really like to go to. The is a former RESCEN CO of mine who I spent a lot of time with on drill weekends. They have a roast planned for him and I know that will be a lot of fun.

SELECTED FOR COMMANDER

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Dateline: Home Study

The selection list for Commander came out today and I was on it! Needless to say I was happy and relieved. There are other outstanding officers I know who were not on the list which tempered my joy somewhat but I am glad the wait is over.

I owe this one to a great many people. This is not something I did by myself, I had the helo of many people. From my family who took up the slack while I was gone doing what I do, to my civilian colleagues who worked extra hard while I was on AT on at drill or came in and atteneded a meeting for me, to the selection board who was kind enough to chose me. But I owe much of this to the Enlisted I have commanded over the years. They made me look good to the Board and I owe them for that. I'll have a cake at our next drill to thank them but I can never repay them for this.

BLUE ANGELS AT GRADUATION

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Dateline: Home Study

Today I not only got orders and travel arrangements for the Current Strategy Forum and graduation at the Naval War College, I also got the details of the graduation ceremony itself. The Blue Angels will have a fly over for the ceremony! Now that's pretty cool! Should be a fun trip.

MEMORIAL DAY

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Dateline: Home Study

The Memorial Day service was today and turn was not too bad. I had hoped for a little better but the weather was not all that nice and it looked rain was about to fall at any minute. I was the Master of Ceremonies and had the privilege of introducing Major General Joseph Fant, US Army (Ret) as the key note speaker. We also had the mayor of Starkville and the President of the Board of Supervisors speak as well. The highlights were the introduction of the next of kin of those who died in war and the reading of the names of those who died. We then laid wreaths on the monument at the courthouse.

I also made all the news channels in the major metropolitan Starkville area. I, along with others, was interviewed before the event started and after the event ended and they used both interviews of me. I don’t think it was so much what I said as it was that I was dressed in whites.

My concluding remarks are below.

In closing today, I would like to acknowledge that we are still a nation at war, a nation at war against terrorism, fighting not just for freedom at home but for freedom of all people of the world. Many have already died for this cause, and many more will surely die before we prevail. Mississippi, the patriotic state she is, ranks fourth in the nation in the number who have paid the last full measure in this war and it is fitting that we learn from their sacrifice. To quote that great spokesman Abraham Lincoln, as he stood on the Battlefield at Gettysburg,
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I always like to remind people that we are still at war and it is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dateline: Home Study

Perhaps, just perhaps, the news media is starting to get it. Mr. Schaeffer is exactly correct in what he says; those of us who are connected to the military get messages from shipmates so we know that things are not as bad in Afghanistan and Iraq as the major news outlets would have us believe. There are still some issues that need to be resolved but overall a lot of progress is being made through the efforts of brave and dedicated men and women who wear the uniform.

washingtonpost.com The Military You Don't See By Frank Schaeffer

Sunday, May 29, 2005; B07

I never served in the military, and before my son unexpectedly volunteered, I was too busy writing novels to give much thought to the men and women who guard us. To me the military was the "other." After my son joined the Marines, however, casualty reports from Afghanistan and Iraq were no longer mere news items but gut-churning family bulletins. And reports about prisoner abuse cut me to the quick. They also made me angry at the media. Sure, this was an emotional, don't-impugn-my-son's-honor reaction, but I wonder if there is also something fundamentally amiss with the way the media report on our military.

If most reporters, editors and publishers are like this writer before his son volunteered, they don't identify with members of our armed forces personally. Most members of our media are drawn from my privileged class. And we, the most privileged Americans, seem to believe that everyone but our children should serve. When members of the elite do volunteer -- as did the Harvard-graduate son of Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin -- it's a news story in itself.

To be sure, if the children of our top reporters, editorial writers and columnists were proportionately represented in our military, we would still read the stories about prisoner abuse. But I think we might also read more stories like this one, forwarded to me by another Marine's father:

"February 19, 2004 Iraq Dear Mom & Dad, . . . . We were stopped in the desert outside of Fallujah. We had 3 detainees under our control that were captured in the act of [attacking our] Marines. Because we were in the open without any facilities around, the detainees were temporarily being held under the stars.

"Around 3:00 a.m., the wind started blowing hard and a sandstorm hit . . . . the sky opened and the flying sand was joined by a downpour of rain. . . . . In the back of a truck, 4 Marines were trying to stay dry and get some sleep. The lieutenant who was in charge of providing security for the detainees approached this truck and opened up the back hatch. He ordered the Marines out . . . . The Marines asked why and he explained to them that he had to put the detainees in the back of the truck to protect them from the rain and sandstorm.

"Word of this spread quickly and everyone was livid. We couldn't believe that our Marines were being kicked into the sandstorm/rainstorm so these detainees could stay dry. The next day I was still angry and everyone was still talking about what had happened that night. Later in the day, after having time to cool down and think about the situation, I switched from being angry to being proud. . . . I love you and miss you lots.

"Your son, Josh"
(Cpl. Joshua A. Mandel)

As a military parent, why do I read the most positive stories about our troops in a sort of military-family samizdat e-mail underground network and not on Page One? And how many times does the same type of editorial about the same handful of abused prisoners have to be repeated before an inaccurate impression of our military is given?

Maybe reporters and editorial writers think that reporting too often on the many selfless acts our troops undertake will reflect well on an undeserving president who likes to grandstand with our troops in photo ops. But is the truth about the character of our military being accurately, or should I say proportionately, reported? Does the public, which has woefully little personal contact with our military, know that most men and women in our services are not torturers but people like them trying to do the best they can with compassion and honor? Does the public know that acts of kindness are routine and acts of abuse are rare?

I treasure a photograph of my son cradling an Afghan child in his arms while standing outside a school he was protecting from fanatics who wanted to kill the teacher for the "crime" of teaching girls. That picture is far more typical of what my son and his fellow Marines did every day than are the pictures of mistreated prisoners.

My son humbled me. He taught me that our troops are not the "other." My son's brothers and sisters in uniform deserve better than to be mischaracterized if only by omission. Who they are and what they do should be accurately reported in a way that reflects the reality of what our selfless and extraordinary men and women do every day.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of "Faith of Our Sons -- A Father's Wartime Diary."

Hmmm. Wonder the chances aer seeing something like that in Newsweek? It is stories like this the Bush Administration was talking about when it asked Newsweek to help reapir the damage they caused. They don't need to make anything up or even slant the news, they just need to run the good news stories too. And this story is probably eve nverifiable!

ON THE RADIO

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Dateline: Home Study

Today I went to the radio station for an interview about the Military affairs Committee but it turned to not be an interview at all. I was prepared to answer questions but I learned that the way it was going to work was for me to be introduced and I was to then talk for about a minute and fifty seconds. I managed to pull it off but more takes and it would have been better. The focus was on Memorial Day and inviting people to the ceremony we are planning.

Dateline: Home Study

Ran across this on Blogs of War. Looks like some soldiers in Iraq are making the best of things and enjoying themselves during some downtime.

Dateline: Home Study

The Newsweek story continues and Whitaker continues to hide. In today’s Washington Post there was another story about other reports of Koran abuse from detainees. Come on guys, the detainees have every reason in the world to make up stuff. Why do we not take the word of every criminal who claims innocence as seriously as we do radical militants in Gitmo?

Whitaker claims he was out of town so he is apparently not responsible. From the WashPost:

In the case of the Koran item, Whitaker said, he saw a draft version on April 29, Friday, and raised no questions. The next day, which is the magazine’s deadline, the final draft would have been approved by Periscope editor Nancy Cooper. Whitaker said he did not see the final version because he was traveling on personal business. Managing Editor Jon Meacham was out of town for an interview and for the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Washington bureau chief Dan Klaidman said he was also involved in the editing.

What a lame-assed excuse! “But sir, I wasn’t actually at the Concentration Camp where the Jews were killed so I can’t be held responsible.” I think we’ve been down that road and found that “not being there” is “not an excuse”. Whitaker needs to step up and resign, but he won’t.

Dateline: Home Study

Yesterday US Army Reserve Specialist Sabrina D. Harman was sentenced to six months in prison for her role in photographing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. What she did was wrong, no doubt, it was not in keeping with the standards of the military and fell outside a warrior’s ethic. She is also being given a “bad conduct” discharge according to the Washington Post.

Spec Harman could have received a much heavier sentence, five and a half years, and may well have deserved more than the six months she received. Her actions damaged the image and credibility of the United States and the US military in general. Her actions however resulted in far fewer consequences than did those of Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker. Of course Whitaker, whose irresponsibility resulted in the death of sixteen people, gets off scot free. And he and his staff have the audacity to question the integrity of the military. Show me a reporter in jail for screwing up and I’ll give them some respect. Until then they can just lay off and get their own act together.

Dateline: Home Study

Newsweek today retracted last week's story about the military flushing a Koran down the toilet in Gitmo. Too little, too late. The media is so biased against the military that they were all too happy to belive this story so they ran with it. Now it looks like they didn't have their facts straight and didn't really bother to check too much. This is Dan Rather all over again.

The news media is all too quick to call for resignations an firings from the military perhaps Whitaker will step up to the plate, fire these reporters and then resign himself. The fact is he was in charge when the article was published and the protests which resulted from his magazine's artilce resulted in deaths. There is no excuse for such shoody work and an apology and retraction are not enough.

I, however, will not hold my breath for this happen. Look how long it took Rather to resign after his snafu. Of course Dan still says the article was true.

Some will say I am quick to judge Newsweek as being biased. Perhaps so but let's ask this question. Assume the allegations were true, what did Newsweek hope to gain from reporting the alleged incident? Riots and deaths? Or was it to merely try to shame the military? And, again assuming this incident had happened, what would Newsweek have reported had the soldier had long hair and the toilet was on a street in New York instead of at Gitmo? Why it would have been an expression of free speech then and possibly eligible for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

No, Whitaker and all responsible for this incident must go. It'll never happen.

For another take, which I agree with, check out Captain's Quarters.

BRAC IS OUT

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Dateline: On the front porch swing, listening to the thunder, waiting the rain

The BRAC recommendations came out yesterday and people in this area were a little relieved. Columbus Air Force Base will actually gain some people, which appears to be a good thing. There was much consternation about the list and whether CAFB would survive. The concern is always that if a military base is lost, the local economy goes to hell in a hand basket at supersonic speeds. Not long ago I held that belief as well but then chose to write a research paper on the topic and my opinion changed.

My research on BRAC showed that, if the local leadership is proactive and works with the state, good things can result from losing a base. It takes planning, it takes cooperation, it takes effort, and most of all it take strategic vision, but BRAC can be good for a community. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad CAFB was not listed for closing. I like having a military base nearby and think there is some non-monetary value in that. I also know all too well that leaders in Mississippi are not capable of planning, cooperating, concerted effort, and we all know they lack strategic vision. So, for Columbus, losing the base would have been catastrophic.

It does look my old Reserve Center in Mobile, Alabama will be gone. I thought that was coming given the number of Sailors who remain there. So many of the units have moved to other center and the rest are drilling off-site at their supported commands now. It is difficult to argue that it should remain but it is an asset to the community, The good will and military support that comes about as a result of the efforts of the full-time support staff there is incredible, and Mobile is a Navy town.

It also looks like NAS Meridian will remain, although with some realignment. Naval Station Pascagoula will go, which again is not a surprise. It is one of the few remaining “home ports’ remaining and many of her ships will be decommissioned in the years ahead.

IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS

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Dateline: On the front porch swing, waiting for the rain to come

I received this email yesterday which I found interesting. Nice to see the Times do some good news for a change.

New York Times May 13, 2005

By Arthur Chrenkoff, Helene Silverman, and Norman Hathaway

As the old newsroom saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads." And while it is understandable that newspapers like to report stories about violence, crime, conflict and mayhem, it means that good news is often relegated to the back pages, if reported at all. This happens the world over, be it in Boston, Berlin -- or Baghdad. People who live in Boston or Berlin know, of course, that the bad news is never the whole story. Baghdad, on the other hand, is far away, and Westerners have no choice but to rely on reporters to tell us everything that is happening there. And while there's no denying that there is much bad news -- and the recent spate of audacious attacks by the insurgents is a prime example -- the international press has been so focused on the setbacks that few readers are likely to know about the daily parade of small triumphs that mark slow but steady progress. Consider a month's worth of such stories.

1 April -- Iraqs Kurds, divided for decades by their loyalty to two rival local governments, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, announce the merger of the two administrations.

2 April -- Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation announces it is now supervising 121 major reconstruction projects that will cost $1.8 billion.

3 April -- Iraq and Kuwait move to end the longstanding border dispute that led to the Persian Gulf war, establishing a joint commission to decide on best way to administer the Rumaila oil field.

4 Apri1 -- Seventeen insurgents die in clashes in eastern Diyala Province; one Iraqi soldier is killed.

5 April -- Iraqi government and International Monetary Fund announce they expect to have an economic adjustment package in place by fall.

6 April --More than 900 companies from 44 countries participate in an Iraqi reconstruction exposition in Amman, Jordan.

7 April -- Ibrahim al-Jaafari named prime minister, becoming the first Shiite leader of Iraq in centuries, one day after a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, was named president.

8 April -- Three suspected insurgents arrested in Mosul following tips from local residents.

9 April -- Government announces it will begin 24 water projects, costing $15 million, in the restive Sunni areas of Latifiya, Yousifiya and Al Rasheed.

10 Apri1 -- Iraqi security forces announce the capture of Ibrahim Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein, suspected of playing a major part in financing the insurgency.

11 April -- Sixty-five suspected insurgents arrested in Baghdad in the bggest joint American-Iraqi raids to date.

12 April -- Oil output in the south of Iraq reaches 1.1 million barrels per day, close to prewar levels.

13 April -- Ministry of Health allocates $6.1 million for the reconstruction of Falluja Hospital and three other health centers.

14 April -- Four senior insurgency commanders surrender in Mosul.

15 April -- Drilling begins on four of the 110 planned new wells (74 already underway) that will give clean and reliable water to 550,000 Iraqis in remote parts of the country.

16 April -- Ministry of Health announces completed construction of two hospitals in the poorest areas of Baghdad.

17 April -- Reforestation program begins in forest areas near Erbil that were razed by Saddam Hussein in the 1990's and overharvested for fuel by local residents.

18 April -- Coalition forces arrest the alleged leader of an insurgent cell in Kirkuk responsible for sabotaging oil pipelines.

19 April -- Educational television channel begins broadcasting again for millions of Iraqi students. The channel had been closed down in 1993 after Uday Hussein confiscated its equipment for his private TV channel.

20 April -- American officials announce rehabilitation of Mosul's water treatment and sewer systems is complete.

21 April -- Government announces that the inflation rate fell by 6 percent in March, in large part because of a 48 percent drop in fuel costs.

22 April -- Following tips from local residents just north of Baghdad, 10 suspects arrested in the shooting down of a civilian helicopter.

23 April -- Two major Sunni political parties that had boycotted January's election, the Iraqi Sunni Accord and the Iraqi Islamic Party, announce they will take part in future votes.

24 April -- Opening ceremony held at a primary school in Falluja, one of the five in the city renovated by the United States Army.

25 April -- First troops of the news 450-strong Australian contingent arrive in Muthanna Province to train Iraqi troops and provide security for Japanese forces engaged in the reconstruction effort.

26 April -- America-Iraq School Partners Program pilot begins; initially involving 13 American and 17 Iraqi schools, it aims to build ties between students and educators in the two countries.

27 April -- Government signs contracts with two companies to buld two 200-megawatt power stations in the north.

28 April -- Prime Minister Jaafari's cabinet of 36 members is approved by the National Aseembly (on Saddam Hussein's birthday).

29 April -- Education Department announces it has finished renovating 49 schools and building 22 others in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.

30 April -- Nine residential neighborhoods in Diyala receive new electricity supply through an energy-cooperation project with Iran.

Arthur Chrenkoff, a journalist in Bribane, Australia, writes the Web log chrenkoff.blogspot.com. Helene Silverman and Norman Hathaway are graphic designers.

I am always amazed at how much people expect. There is the cry that there are more terrorist attacks after we invaded Iraq than before. Well, duh! What did they expect, that once the coalition forces entered Iraq the terrorists would just give up? Such shallow thinking!

The Other Side of the Story

Recevied this via email today. Interesting in that it gives another side of the story not often mention in the mainstream press. It also ahs some interesting lesson from an organizational behavior point of view. Not sure of the author, no name was given in the message I received, but it doesn't really matter.

Subject: Happy New Year
Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2005

Greetings from a cold and, I hope for tomorrow anyway, snowy Kabul. It's Christmas Eve 2004 and I, along with about 70 other State Department employees and some 24,000 US and Coalition forces are getting ready to celebrate the Birth of Christ in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan!

When we read news reports from the States about the growing controversy over the very name of this Holiday, we all have to laugh. Here, in an Islamic State, Americans are allowed to put up Christmas decorations, sing Christmas carols and celebrate Christmas without fear that the Afghan version of the ACLU will demand that we call them "Holiday decorations" or force us to deny the existence of Santa Claus.

My Afghan friends, who universally wish me "Merry Christmas", just shake their heads when they read stories about a Virginia 7th grader who was asked to leave a school dance for wearing a Santa Claus outfit! So those of us here in an Islamic state will just keep talking about Christmas while you in the States choose you words carefully to make certain the no hint of "Christmas" escape your lips in a public place.

So how goes our effort in this land of high mountains, deep valleys and harsh plains? I think the sight of three PR guys copying and stapling reports at 11:00 PM provide a microcosm of what is happening in Afghanistan. December has provided a perfect picture of what is going right in Afghanistan and also, sadly, on what could possibly cause the country to revert back to its old terrible days as a one of the world's poorest and most backwards nations.

The good we hope, to paraphrase The Bard, oft-times outlives the bad, so let's start with the good. On ! Tuesday, December 7, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan's first freely elected President after receiving more than 55% of the vote of the both the men and, for the very first time, the women of Afghanistan in the October 9 national election. Both the election and the inauguration, each of which were threatened with violent, terrorist acts by remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda took place without any real disruptions. That they did were tributes both to the Afghan people and the many members of the "international" community that came to Afghanistan and paid a price in both gold and blood to keep to free the country and its people from more than 25 years of war and repression.

I think any of us who have been in Afghanistan as the events of the last few months have unfolded, the election, the successful conclusion of the UN kidnappings and the violence-free Presidential Inauguration, and this week's announcement of a cabinet that reflects all elements of Afghan society, including women, are pleased at how the people of Afghanistan have taken the opportunity given to them by the US and Coalition forces and made great strides in building a free and functioning society,

As I walk and drive the streets of Kabul, Mazur-al-Sharif, or Bagram, you can sense the renewed energy and drive as more and more Afghans open new businesses from the insides of dilapidated shipping containers selling everything from old car bumpers to freshly butchered sheep and goats. Traffic dominated by drivers who acknowledge no traffic laws including one-way streets, center dividers or sidewalks, rivals Bicycle Coalition Fridays in San Francisco as more and more people find work and make the terrifying commute each day. All these are elements of a burgeoning economic sector and the benefit of the decision of the Afghan government to adopt a free-market philosophy to business growth. All this bodes well for the future of Afghanistan.

However, what could put a stop to the growth, which if it increases by double-digits each of the next ten years will still only result in an average per capita income of $500 by 2105, is the complete lack of ability or desire to plan and the almost preternatural belief in the phase "Inshallah" or "If God Wills it." Going to an Afghan business meeting is almost like a trip to a nursery school. Every man at the meetings is willing, welcomed and involved in the discussion.

In fact, most times too many are too involved to get anything done. One of the amazing factors in an Afghan meeting is the sheer number of attendees. I've been to meetings where there were more than 20 Afghans in attendance, most of whom had nothing to do with what was under consideration. When you add to the mix the tea and sweet servers and the constant ringing of cell phones, (apparently it is an Afghan custom to answer every cell phone call and never to turn it off in a meeting,) it is extremely difficult to stay on subject and get anything accomplished. When combined with the lack of an agenda and no attempt at assigning responsibilities it is pretty easy to see why things don't get done very efficiently.

The other factor that contributes to the incredible inefficiency is the notion among most Afghans that saying "No" is not acceptable, even if one has no intention of doing what is asked. For instance, as we were planning a recent National Counter Narcotics Conference, we asked our Afghan colleagues about supplying busses for the participants to go to lunch. For two weeks we were told "no problem," though no one would acknowledge who, actually, would supply the buses. Not surprisingly, one-hour before lunch none had appeared.

That's when I took over as the "interim" Minister of Buses and Transport and conducted a full and frank discussion with an Afghan official that led to two things happening. The buses miraculously appeared and I was threatened, for the third time in my life, to be declared persona non grate in a sovereign nation. (I don't think anyone with any knowledge of the real situation would call my leaving Guyana abruptly the "third time." I'm only counting Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.)

The other situation we see is the lack of real desire to get things done, back to that "Inshallah" mind set. And that's were the example of the three PR guys copying and stapling at 1100 PM comes into play. The night before the afore-mentioned Counter narcotics conference at which the newly-inaugurated President was to speak, my two colleagues, one US and one UK, all of whom are fairly senior in our posts, were frantically copying and stapling Dari and Pashto versions of the next day's programs. (We had done the English version earlier.) We were doing this mundane labor because our Afghan colleagues had not finished the translations until late and, this is the essence of my concern, had no intention of sticking around or working late into the night to make certain that the material was ready for the next morning's event. So it was left to three Western guys to make certain the work was finished. (Some of you may be wondering why one of the crack State department admin assistants wasn't able to help us. The State admins I have worked with, for the most part, should all have tattooed on the forehead "Don't even think about asking me to do something, I only have 13 more years to retirement." But that's a story for another time.)

What is troubling about the Afghan attitude is the sense that someone else should do the work. Or that some work is beneath them. I notice the syndrome late in the evening when most of the Embassy folks, though not the admins, are working and not a single Afghan is around. It gives one pause, and also, says a great deal about! why the US and Western civilization are where they are and why Afghan, and other 3rd World countries are the way they are. As a noted social commentator and Combat Speechwriter says, "Countries are poor, dysfunctional and poverty stricken for a reason."

I am finishing this missive on New Years Eve 2004. Since I've been flat on my back for the past five days with a form of what is commonly called the "Kabul Krud" my celebration of the New Year will be severely limited. A bit of dinner in the mess hall with a few friends, followed by a dose of Ny-Quill, the best friend an American can have in Afghanistan. It's a snowy, windy night with more bad weather in the forecast. Nonetheless, looking back at the past year I think the pluses in Afghanistan far outweigh the minuses.

Three years ago the United States of America led a coalition of forces to free 26 million people from a cruel and oppressive regime that killed and torture! d with impunity. This year that sacrifice paid off when a President was freely elected and, in front of panoply of world leaders, was inaugurated. We should all be proud that we as a Nation had the courage to take action when action was needed. We should also look forward to January when Palestinians, under Israeli occupation, and Iraqis, under US and coalition occupation, become the first two Arab peoples to hold free elections.

Let's hope that when the newly-elected leader of Iraq is sworn in he remembers the words of President Hamid Karzai upon his Inauguration on December 7, 2004, words, by the way, were never printed in most major American newspapers "Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan--the peace, the election, the reconstruction, the life that the Afghans are living today in peace, the children going to school, the businesses, the fact that Afghanistan is again a respected member of the international community--is from the help that the United States of America gave us. Without that help Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists--destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education. We are very, very grateful, to put it in the simple words that we know, to the people of the United States of America for bringing us this day."

Happy New Year

I particularly like the Christmas comments. It seems a new democracy is more tolerant of a religious holiday than is an older democracy. I know my liberal friends will scream separation of church and state on this issue but lets look at the facts. Afghanistan is a long standing theocracy, and not just any theocracy but one that is very strict in how religion is handled. They potentially have much more to lose by openly allowing the celebration of Christian holidays than does the United States yet look at who is more concerned about Christmas. If it were so sad, it would be funny.

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