A U.S. airman exits an C-130 H3 aircraft during a high-altitude jump while participating in Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014 over northeastern Niger, Feb. 28, 2014.National Guard photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist
Army Pfc. Paul Barraza runs a six-mile course during the Best Warrior Competition on Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, March 1, 2014. Barraza, a cavalry scout, is assigned to the Hawaii National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
C.J. Box’s latest, Stone Cold, a Joe Pickett novel, will definitely become a “mega country hit.” His books based in Wyoming have the flavor of a modern day Western, where the setting becomes almost a character in itself. Box’s novels always include two plots: one involving Pickett’s family and the other, a story of adventure, with some political intrigue and culture from that part of the US.
Although the Joe Pickett novels are a series, each individual book is a stand alone, due in large part to Box’s writing style. Stone Cold has two intertwining plots, one involving Pickett’s college age daughter and the other a murder for hire company, based in Wyoming’s Black Hills. Each piece of the story goes beyond the “who done it,” allowing the reader to question modern day issues.
The family story has Pickett’s older daughter, Sheridan, worried about a fellow dorm student at the University of Wyoming who appears to have a mass shooter type personality. Box explores the issue of the 2nd Amendment on college campuses, such as, whether colleges should be gun free zones, or should college students shave the freedom to carry a weapon. He told blackfive.net, “What I put in the book is really happening in Wyoming where students can have up to three guns, but not in their dorm room. They need to store it with the UW Police Department. Times have obviously changed since when I was younger I had a rifle in my high school locker for finding prairie dogs. In my college days we would have our guns to go hunting. I am a big 2nd Amendment supporter but I wanted my readers to question the issue of allowing guns in dorm rooms. I remember my college days where we twenty-one year old boys would get all liquored up. I am not so sure it is a good idea to have a gun then. I go back and forth, but I do think what is being done today is a fair compromise.”
The other plot has Joe traveling to Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel County to investigate the shady dealing of a wealthy landowner, Wolfgang Templeton who owns the county, land, people, and law. The issue focuses on being above the law for righteous reasons. Box gets the point across through his characters: Joe tends to bend the rules while Nate Romanowski goes against the rules. For those who have not read any past books, Nate is the antithesis of Joe, a loner who lives in the woods with his falcons. This plot brings back “Frontier Justice,” since Nate rights a wrong against those morally degenerate elitists who are untouchable in society. The other issue examined is the idea of handouts and the dependency it can cause among the people.
Box commented, “There is the perception in this country that some bad people are untouchable because they are part of the elite and part of the system. This is something Templeton and Nate address since they go after people that cannot be touched in any way due to their connections. Regarding the other issue, Templeton, to gain control, established in this county handouts to take care of everybody and bring the people on his side. Yet, they want more and more from him. This shows how the county people became dependent, unhappy, and is always asking for more and more. Both Templeton and the county people become hostages to each other.”
The reader should be aware that although the main plot comes to an ending the side plots are left up in the air, which is Box’s style. He always leaves certain threads that run through the series that don’t have a definitive conclusion, and resume in future books.
He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will also include Nate. The plots will include Joe’s daughter April’s disappearance that will be intertwined with a plot surrounding endangered species and the effect it has on energy development.
Wyoming citizen, the former Second Lady of the US, Lynne Cheney told blackfive.net, “I love Box's novels. His realistic plots yield plenty of surprises, and his characters are fabulous, especially Joe Pickett. And all of this is set against an evocative Wyoming background that he draws perfectly. There is never a false note to break the spell. I hope Box keeps writing for many years to come.”
Stone Cold has non-stop action with captivating characters. The plots are thought provoking, suspenseful, and compelling. These western tale books are a welcome difference from other crime novels and should be on any readers’ list that wants a thrilling mystery.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Dorman, Bilbrey and a member of the Wounded Warrior Battalion East, practices his sitting volleyball skills during the 2014 Marine Corps Trials on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 4, 2014. The event involves four competing teams comprised of active duty Marines, veterans and international service members. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Ashton Buckingham
:: Comments left behind ::
UP close and personal just as the Marines like it. Great photo.
As seen through a night-vision device, a U.S. airman provides wind speed and aircraft direction to a C-130 H3 aircraft during night airfield operations on an airfield during Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014 over Niger, Feb. 28, 2014. National Guard photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist
Book Review - "Moving Target" by J.A. Lance
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.
Best-Selling author J.A. Jance has written her 50th novel, Moving Target. It features the character Ali Reynolds and her supporting cast: fiancé and computer expert B. Simpson, longtime gay household assistant, Leland Brooks, and good friend, Taser carrying nun, Sister Anselm. It also introduces a powerful character, Lance Tucker, a talented teenage computer hacker.
This book involves two plotlines that take place in Arizona, Texas, and England. Although the plots are basically unrelated Jance is able to weave them together through Ali and B’s relationship. The first plot explores Leland’s background, why his parents supposedly disowned him for being gay, and a cold case that Ali helps to solve involving Leland’s family. This plot is wrapped up mid-way through the book, which allows readers to concentrate on the very suspenseful plot that explores online research. This is where Jance introduces the character Lance Tucker, an incarcerated juvenile offender for hacking into the San Leandro School District’s Computer system. While setting up Christmas decorations in the lockup rec room he is severely burned. Because B. Simpson’s testimony helped to find Lance guilty he now feels bad and is obliged to get to the bottom of what really happened to Lance. Simpson, the founder of the high-tech security company High Noon Enterprises, elicits the help of Ali and Sister Anselm, and is determined to hire Lance for his GHOST program. It is a revolutionary computer software that allows users to surf any part of the web completely undetected.
Jance commented to blackfive.net about some of her characters, “Although I made Leland gay he is a person who is gay, not a gay person. His homosexuality does not define who he is or is not. He is a wonderful person who has a true blue nature. I made sure his gayness did not get into people’s faces. It’s a telling story of one character that happens to be gay.”
Regarding newcomer Tucker, “Lance is a great character that will be in future books. I cannot have a character like that show up and then drop him. Basically this was a story about people where I intentionally compared the two character’s families. One family was very supportive with unconditional love while the other family was not very supportive.”
She gave a heads up about her next few books, or as she calls them “books 51.4.” Due out this July will be a Johanna Brady book where readers will find out what happened to her dog Tigger, based on the Winnie the Pooh character. Jance is currently working on her next Ali Reynolds book. It takes place in Minnesota during the wintertime, and has a plot that delves into certain religious cults treatment of women.
Jance explained why she always includes some form of discrimination against women in all of her books. “I was a feminist that was not allowed into the University of Arizona’s creative writing program because I was a woman. Although today in looking back I think the early day feminists lost their sense of humor and never got it back. I enjoy writing about things I really care about and what is important to me. In Moving Target I put that scene in where a character was barred from being accepted into Oxford by an all male admissions board. I had her hiring only women for the lab and loved the line, ‘Payback is a bitch.’”
Moving Target has a fast paced plot with very likeable and sympathetic characters. Through a riveting plot it explores the technological world while also allowing readers to get to know the human side behind the characters.
Crews load U.S. Marine Corps vehicles onto a landing craft air cushion from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in Rota, Spain, Feb. 26, 2014. The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group is supporting maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Michael J. Lieberknecht
Book Review - "Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love"
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
Philadelphia Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles, “Tainted Justice,” investigating police corruption. Their book, Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, is based on these articles. It reads like something out of a Michael Connelly crime novel where they behaved more like a pair of detectives than journalists.
The story begins in 2009 when a law enforcement source of Wendy’s sent over a drug addict informant, Benny Martinez, to inform them about the illegal activities he had conducted with Philadelphia narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik. Readers soon realize that the search warrants become the key that opened up the investigation. With Benny’s help Jeff would fabricate search warrants in order to enter a suspected drug dealer’s house. People might ask why this is a big deal since many times drugs were found in the house and the occupant was a known drug dealer. Laker explained to blackfive.net, “The problem is if you lie with these rules what is to stop someone from lying on search warrants to get into your home, my home, or any law-abiding citizen’s house. This is not how the police should work in a Democratic society.”
But as the reporters investigated further they saw this to be only the tip of the iceberg. Search warrants were used to bust into retail shops owned by legal immigrants under the guise of selling drug-related supplies. After the narcotics team disabled security cameras they would steal cash and merchandise. One shop owner had a hidden backup hard-drive that he later gave to the reporters, which broke the case wide open. Wendy explained that he had lost his store, house, and dignity, while trying to fight this injustice.
A third scandal was discovered in the course of the investigation, how one officer sexually assaulted women. He chose women who were large breasted, demure, and would not fight back. Wendy and Barbara feel strongly that these women were targeted because they were poor. They commented, “Nothing pisses us more than men in power who preyed on vulnerable women. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, nicknamed the ‘Boob Man’ by his colleagues would fondle them, and in one instance shoved his hand up a woman’s vagina. There is no doubt in our mind that these women are telling the truth. We had them come in individually and watch a video of a raid. They all picked out Tolstoy as the abuser.”
Unfortunately none of these officers involved have been fired. These officers still collect their paychecks, the same salary minus the overtime. Although they have been taken off policing on the streets and now are on desk duty they have yet to face any criminal charges, including Tolstoy. The police commissioner’s excuse is that he is waiting for the FBI to make a decision to indict or not. What is ridiculous is this “holding pattern” is now over four years.
Busted is a riveting account of how a few bad cops can tarnish the good deeds done by so many police officers. It explores the drug underworld and exposes how some bad cops became corrupt and thought they were above the law, completely unafraid of getting caught.
A U.S. Special Forces soldier talks on his radio after successfully completing a clearing operation in Darazkol village in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Feb. 23, 2014. The U.S. soldiers, assigned to Special Forces Operational Detachment Afghanistan, assisted Afghan commandos with clearing operations to disrupt insurgents from using Kharkrezwal village as a safe haven. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores
Yesterday, Rush (who does not parlay in rumors or conspiracy theories) reported @ how then Senator Obama went to The Ukraine and flippin disarmed the Ukrainian army. Seems that when they went to secure former Soviet nukes, that they found it profitable to scuttle a hundred thousand small arms and small arms rounds, and various other conventional must-have stuff if you're planning on defending your slice of Europe.
Plan B? Maybe this was the Manchurian's plan A, B, C and D. Just a thought.
BTW, the unrest in eastern Ukraine the past couple of days smells like an Intell Op, doesn't it? Makes me feel like Putin is preparing for a possible invasion there, too. Stay tuned.
First, if you would be so kind as to check out the brand-new Mission: VALOR website, it would be appreciated. The content is still a bit rough, but it gives you an idea of what we want to put in place. Those of you who like This Ain't Hell (liking the snazzy new look!) might enjoy one particular policy we are putting in place. Constructive suggestions for improvements, features you want, etc. are VERY much appreciated.
Second, we have already been asked to take part in two events this month and do other work that can help address the crisis in veteran employment. So, I'm trying to raise funds to help with start-up costs since everyone from the IRS on down has their hand out, er, fees and such. You can donate via my GoFundMe, or hit the tip jar in the upper right at Laughing Wolf and select second best to use PayPal. I'm glad to tell you exactly where the money goes/how it is spent too.
There are very good reasons to wish good things for the revolutionary movement in Ukraine. However, we aren't going to support them openly with any real strength. This is because of logistics. Not the logistical problems identified by Zenpundit -- that is, the ones that pertain to the possibility of fighting in Ukraine. Those problems are real enough, but they aren't the reason.
Meanwhile, there's also the problem of Afghanistan — the "real war," as Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry used to describe it. Now they want to disengage, and the Ukraine crisis creates a very uncomfortable problem: The U.S. needs Moscow's cooperation as it withdraws the more than 33,000 troops left in Afghanistan because one of its main withdrawal routes runs through Russia.
The Pentagon began developing a supply route from Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia because of frequent disruptions on the main routes through Pakistan....
Russia has allowed NATO to develop a transit hub at a base in Ulyanovsk to move cargo by air, road and train from Afghanistan through the country to its northern ports. At least a third of the cargo coming out of Afghanistan is expected to move by that route -- if Moscow doesn't shut it down.
If we were going to fight a real war against Russia, of course, we could view our forces in Afghanistan as a kind of pre-positioned task force that could turn its guns around and operate for a while as a second front. That possibility is precluded by Russia's status as a first-rate nuclear power, as well as the challenge of resupply: we'd have to figure out not only how to fight on the Western front, but how to link up a reliable supply to this Eastern front. Either of those problems is huge by itself.
One reason the Russians are moving so confidently is that they have done the math on this. It's possible we might become embroiled in a war because of some basic error on our part. Wars do sometime start by accident. If we do find ourselves there, we've got to tackle those huge logistical problems first.
Clandestine and diplomatic support are the more likely fields of action. Even diplomatic support, however, will be limited by the need to maintain the supply lines to our forces in Afghanistan. It may well be that the Russians will look for any pretext to shut those down, because it would slow our withdrawal. Like the Norse god Tyr, we've stuck our hand in the wolf's mouth, and as long as it remains there it serves as a kind of guarantee of our good behavior.
It's amazing what arm-chair generals will come up with. The reason the Russians have us by the balls is that we've got troops in Afghanistan and the logistics are messy. And our "good behavior" has craftily been assured by making it difficult to exit Afghanistan.
What exactly would "bad behavior" entail? Some unspecified military option? The only military option we and the EU have is World War III. That's it. All this thumb sucking about options on the table and the U.S. military doing this or that is for crazy people. The Russians are going to do what they are going to do and there is nothing we can do about it militarily. What happens to junk in Afghanistan is irrelevant.
The articles you cite are talking about "cargo", not troops. American service members are not leaving Afghanistan through Russia. If it was up to me they wouldn't be there at all. Their well-being, not to mention that of our forces in Europe, would hardly be enhanced by engaging in some military "option" that would please the crackpot writers at the Examiner. The reason I commented was that I'm always amazed at how the right-wing pundits, safe inside the Washington Beltway, never tire of talking about "toughness" and "clout" and "projecting power" and other such bullshit. Vladimir Putin doesn't give a rat's ass who the America president is when it comes to the Ukraine and other nations of the former Soviet Union. Transit hubs on the Afghan border are irrelevant to what is going on in the Ukraine. Hoskinson and his ilk are just unhappy that the U.S. is not doing enough saber rattling to give him a hard-on.
His geopolitical musings are, as I said, just right-wing thumbsucking.
I see no reason why Ulyanovsk wouldn't be used for the draw down. Any airbases in A-stan would be at continual and increasing risk for interdiction with MANPADS, because they would increasingly be reliant upon questionable Afghan troops for security.
Vlad the Impaler has played his cards well. Now the Ukrainians have joined us in being hosed by the Kenyan Kandidate.
I assume from your handle that you understand the importance of cargo to troops (at least in the form of chow!). They're hostages, in effect. I think their presence in Afghanistan (and our need to feed them) means that we can't even expect to bring very much diplomatic pressure to bear, because Russia would like nothing better than to find ways to put a drag on our drawdown efforts. Our presence in Afghanistan is only harming us, these days.
In any case, it sounds like we agree on the situation -- no options short of WWIII, Putin has the cards and will do essentially what he likes.
Putin is a smart guy. While I have only reasons to oppose him, it is hard not to have a certain admiration for the way that he plays the 'game.' Of course, he may be playing what is in the long term a losing hand, given Russian demographics and depleting natural gas resources. Still, he's playing it well.
An alternative would be to cut a way out through Iran to the sea, so that we didn't have to deal with the AFG logistics (and could solve a certain other problem along the way by razing all suspected nuclear sites). That would serve as a show of national will, while releasing the pressure caused by the hostage situation. The two things together would greatly strengthen our diplomatic position, and perhaps not escalate the conflict to the point of a nuclear exchange.
So if you want a war game, you could try running that one.
Why do you wish the revolutionary movement well. They consist of ethnic Ukrainians (and a few left over Nazis) who staged a violent coup d'etat that overthrew the legitimate, freely and democratically elected government. The EU appears to be complicit in the coup and appears to have engineered it because the legitimate government of the Ukraine preferred a better offer from Russia.
You should also bear in mind that Russia does have treaty rights in Crimea, and that their naval base at Sevastopol is at least as important to them as Pearl Harbor is to us. Russia's aggressive defense of their base was entirely predictable.
The rhetoric coming out of Washington and European capitals is delusional, dishonest and very aggressive. Over the weekend, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that NATO should offer some sort of military assistance to the new government in the Ukraine and that NATO should reposition its forces, where or to what end not stated. And Gen. Rasmussen (current head of NATO) spoke very carelessly in a press conference and implied that Ukraine was already in NATO or at least NATO's purview. There are also numerous threats against the Russian economy and leadership.
This language is deeply dangerous because we and NATO are powerless to do anything to affect events in the Ukraine, and our aggressive language might provoke Russia to do something really dangerous. Ironically, in this case Putin is in the right, and we are in the wrong. If a European war does occur, we will have started it.
Putin understands that there are limits to his ability to sustain the cost of power projection as a lesson to the flaccid diplomacy of the west. Tweaking the nose of our CinC and NATO with the implied threat of reducing the flow of petroleum products to Europe in the middle of winter is colorful but unproductive financially to Moscow. Taking a page from Obama's playbook, Putin is distracting Kerry from reacting to what Putin is really up to. Namely, consolidating power in the M.E. by roiling oil prices which will benefit him in the short and long term. Kerry is in way over his head and dancing to the KGB music. Fascinating that Putin has managed to engage in a large and real time readiness exercise while simultaneously putting on full display the hollow rhetoric from the financially strapped Europe and U.S. The belligerents in this current brouhaha all have one thing in common; they cannot afford to continue this military posture for long. It does put paid to the laughable "Russian Reset" much touted by Obama and ignored as delusional by the rest of the world. Hiding behind the Olympics, Putin also managed to seriously degrade militants out of the Pankisi Gorge region by drawing them out to the massive bait that is an Olympic soft target. Any discussion of Putin should be prefaced by his history with the KGB. Give the devil his due, Putin is shrewd, clever and a cold blooded assassin. Russia's weakness is financial. His cash reserves are low and he is on his way to extending his near-afar back into eastern Europe. Obama's move to take missiles out of Poland to curry favor with Putin was a fool's errand with predictable results. Predictable if one knows one's enemy and what he is capable of. If Putin loses any sleep at night it is because he is wondering how far the U.S. pendulum will swing back in 2014/2016.
"The U.S. needs Moscow's cooperation as it withdraws the more than 33,000 troops left in Afghanistan because one of its main withdrawal routes runs through Russia..... because of frequent disruptions on the main routes through Pakistan...."
Ah, someone finally noticed the logistics. I guess we won't be hearing about the need for maintaining a significant permanent military force (we can call it Task Force Hostage) in A'stan anymore.
This lionization of Vladimir Putin is bizarre. He's not stupid and in many ways is shrewd and capable. But the situation in the Ukraine, and his response to it, aren't validations of his strong points.
Annexing Crimea, which has essentially been accomplished, is one thing, but dealing with the rest of the Ukraine is a disaster waiting to happen. His use of force, which seems to impress the right-wing in this country, is hardly a sign of strength. A military (Russia vs the Ukrainian military) conflict in Ukraine proper would be disastrous for him and for Russia. It's impossible to see how the benefits of war with the Ukraine would out weigh the costs. His allure to you guys on the right seems to largely result from his authoritarian persona. He has no real opposition in Russia. He's jailed or eliminated those that oppose him. The Russian parliament appears willing to rubber stamp anything he asks for. He has supported, even fomented, a nationalistic fervor that has extreme elements to it. All this may give him seeming advantages over the bumbling Western democracies, but it glosses over Russia's weaknesses and his capacity for over-reaching.
Economically, militarily and even politically (in the sense of global politics) Russia is weak. It has no real allies and many potential enemies along its own border. Putin, if he's really as smart as you say, had better know when to hold em and when to fold em. KGB tactics once had their place in the Soviet Union during the cold war. But, Russia and the world have changed. Putin and Russia have a lot to lose in this crisis. Putin will be losing a lot of sleep if his tightrope act fails.
Cheese and Crackers it seems like some posters are seeing common sense.
Russia generally keeps about 300% more foreign currency reserves than the USA
The problem from leaving Afghanistan is the million tons of gear we have to either pull out or donate to the Taliban If some idiot thinks that we can bill Pakistan for transit damages and collect maybe they better glim that again
As for the morality of what Putin did, at least he did not raise the specter of WMD before invading.
American Presidents will be carrying the weight of Iraq and Afghanistan for some time, just what happened after the disaster of Vietnam.
Presidents are constrained by the past and by what the American people can accept. The American people are not going to be supporting foreign adventures for sometime, the last 2 failed miserably.
I was just looking at some numbers from the CIA Fact Book. Russia has a GDP of a little over $2 trillion dollars, just below Brazil and above Italy. The EU and the U.S. have a combined GDP of around $32 trillion dollars, split almost equally between the two entities. And of course we have addition allies like Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea etc. whose economic output is huge. Who is in Russia's camp? Cuba? Syria?
The point is that economic power means a great deal in the 21st century. Putin spent at least $50 billion dollars (could be a lot more because it was a pork barrel for Putin's friends and fellow oligarchs) on the Olympics. Sochi and the region were going to be transformed into a new tourist mecca where people from all over the world could come and spend money. If there is a bloodbath in the Ukraine, forget about it. And Putin can forget about Western investment in Russia (their energy industry was transformed after the cold war by Western technology and expertise) and any kind or normal trade relations with the industrial world.
Simply put, I don't think Putin has the West by the tail at all. He's the one riding the tiger. I hope he knows how to get off.
Ukraine is the name of the country, not THE Ukraine, just like it is not THE Poland or THE France. "The" is a very negative term to Ukrainians and denotes the many years of history where it became a region or territory of another country, mainly Russia/USSR. Please fix the title of the post. Thank you.
I often support revolutionary movements, especially when they aim at things I also value, or when there are good strategic reasons for doing so, but also because I think revolution is very often a good in itself. As Edward Abbey said, a revolution is good because it transforms a slave into a man (if only, he added, for an hour). If a state is genuinely legitimate, it will not need to worry about a revolution. If it does, its claims to legitimacy are highly suspect.
In this case, the revolution looks to a common heritage and set of values in the West, and serves as a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin. So in addition to the general good of revolutionary movements, both the additional goods are also present.
Now, it may be that I spend a lot of time reading things written in earlier centuries, but I'm under the impression that "the Ukraine" just means "the borderlands," i.e., it's a plural of the sort that we often find in nation names that refer to plural areas ("The Netherlands," or "The Philippines"). In any case, it carries an article in French and German sources as well as English ones. Certainly I intend no negative connotations, and support their independence. On the other hand, I reflexively oppose changes in grammar where perfectly good old standards are suddenly found to be offensive (for example, the decision to say that it is horribly sexist to say "If someone is cold, he should put on a coat" rather than "...they should put on a coat").
I hope all the progressive statists in our Department of State Department can handle the shock of these events. If only some of them had read Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations...", published back in 1996 and available from Amazon, they might have realized that Ukraine was what the author saw as a "divided" country subject to devolution either from within or without and prepared something along the lines of a contingency plan or, at least, a "Danger, Will Robinson" sign.
And, lest you all forget, I have some real problems with the vaunted European Union's behavior in moving Ukrainian history along the road to crisis. From the beginning of my awareness of the situation, it seemed to me that the EU was heavily into "tax-farming" mode trying, in spite of its own serious economic and political problems, to lure the Ukrainian Ukrainians and their near bankrupt corruptocratic country into its own cabal. And believe you me those EU apparatchiks could give Putin's puppets a run for their dachas. The EU's concept of democracy, one might say, is subject to fits and starts in an on again off again kind of way and while political and economic shenanigan's have been sufficient up 'til now (N.B. the EU's recently knotted panties over the Swiss referendum to control immigration into their own country) we will shortly see if they'll let the gal they brought to the dance go home with another guy.
Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder what our UN Ambassadoress Samatha Powers is thinking about the "responsibility to protect" that she worked so hard to sell to the rest of the world. I think Mr. Putin is finding it quite useful.
As much as we all dislike Mr. Putin and his ways and means, what was fomented and allowed to proceed in Kiev was very much a coup and however much we may like its direction and proponents, it was hardly an exercise in democracy. For some almost nonsensical reason, the EU decided to help foment the overthrow of a somewhat democratically elected government via large scale street disorders, a kind of OCCUPY Wall Street on streroids, and now, finding itself and its new potential subjects in a hole of its own digging, continues its excavation.
We are in the best of all possible hands in the best of all possible worlds.
In addition, if one dances with the devil as the US has, then one must be prepared to look him in the eye in the pale moonlight (to poorly paraphrase). Doesn't mean we don't have options. Get out the fiddle and PLAY, thats how you beat the devil (as the song goes).
Right now tension is not high enough imo, so RATCHET THAT MUTHA UP.
What will stop Putin from further engagement? Tension. The tension has to be unbearable--the iron will of Americans must be shown to be unshakable and fearless. The Crimean invasion is all a false flag to distract Russian people from Putin's horrible domestic policies.
"military options not on the table" -- are we that uncreative? Sickening.
All right. I'm giving you this because I understand the importance of symbols to revolutionary movements, and I support the revolution. I still think it's a strange place to draw the line -- we've been talking about "the Ukraine" since at least the 1700s, and it still leaves them with a country called "Borderlands," which suggests that there is a kind of priority being given to other countries for whom you are the border.
But I'll support them, if this is where they've decided they want a symbol.
The Rules For Successful Platoon Sergeants...
A good read for the weekend as we watch events in Russia unfold.
This is my own take on how the next guy down in the platoon can help the next guy up be better, and maybe make the next guy down better for it as well....
I have much to say about the Bear going over the Mountain (again), but that will come later.
Offered without apology....
As a Platoon Sergeant, regardless of MOS, you have the best job in the entire US Military, aside from possibly Jet Pilot or SF warrant officer. If you are in a Combat MOS, you do have the best job in the world.
Your boss, the fresh faced kid 24 year old kid from Michigan, doesn't know shit, but he is not to be treated like shit. You are likely the first "employee" that this fresh faced kid with a new buckskin from the Academy has ever had. He is going to form 90 percent of his opinions about the unit, the C/O, the staff, the BC and the post based upon what you tell him, how you guide him, and how you act.
You are also likely the first real "boss" that the fresh faced steely eyed killers bequeathed to you by the US Government have ever had as well. Stories will be told about you many years from now, make sure they are good ones.
If you ever find yourself wondering why PL's are so dumb, remember how old yours is, and then count backwards from that age using a number between 8 and 12. He was likely in Junior High School when your named was etched on The Wall of Badassery. You are already that far ahead of them.
It is not your job to get the PL reassigned elsewhere. If he is failing, it is going to be seen as your fault.
If the PL shows up anywhere (a jump, a REFORGER, a formal ball) and looks like a soup sandwich, usher him away from there and help him fix it before others see. If your soldiers show up anywhere looking like soup sandwiches, you didn't work hard enough to make sure they didn't.
Help the PL to maintain a healthy distance from the Joes. He will likely share much in common with them (age-wise, taste wise and such) and it will be natural to want to bond with them. Help him do it just enough.
Help the Joes understand that even though the PL is only two years older than they are, his job and responsibilities are much greater.
Make sure that if the PL is leading from a place of danger and that if the mission does not dictate otherwise, you are within earshot.
Instruct your PL on what a 5 point contingency plan is. Make him use it.
Make sure the NCOs in your platoon know where you are, at all times. They will need your help more than they will need air on some days.
Counsel the PL against common errors, but let him make his own mistakes.
When he does make mistakes, allow him to say "you were right Sergeant" first before pointing them out.
Guard carefully your ramblings about your feelings on the PL. There are many that will take your random observations and turn them into negative bullet points on an OER.
Ensure that in your haste to correct your soldiers misdeeds, you temper justice with the mercy of knowing that at some point not that long ago, you were on the other side of that equation.
Make sure that the PL never, under any circumstances, ever has to do any of your work.
Properly instruct him on exactly where his "lane" is and yours is in regards to "NCO Business." Help him with the most essential function of any unit leader; delegation.
Ensure that your PL knows not to ask questions he may not want to know the answers to.
Make sure you are more technically and tactically proficient than the PL and your soldiers believe you to be.
The iron law of weekend passes says that nothing good, productive or lawful comes from hanging out in downtown Columbus/Atlanta/Tacoma on the weekend after 2200, but it makes for great stories on the ride from lockup, and barring it being a capital crime, it likely will look better in the light of day.
Ensure that every troop under your command has your home phone number, cell phone number, wife's cell phone number and tell them that they are to call it BEFORE they call the PL; ALWAYS...
Explain (patiently) to the Joes why it is necessary for the platoon to suffer the inequities of always doing things first because the PL volunteered us for it. Leading the Battalion PT run, leaving first for the training area or being the first unit to do anything pays off. When the time comes to be the first American Soldiers to touch down on the DZ at 2:30 a.m., step out onto an LZ 130 miles behind enemy lines, or lead the Thunder Run into Baghdad, it will just be natural that your platoon is in the lead, because that is how it always is right?
Ensure that you are networked with the other PSGs, and the First Sergeant. Great minds often think alike.
Be present and available during any command function, especially maintenance.
Ensure soldiers have work that complements their strengths and talents. Work for the sake of busy-ness dulls the edge of these honed weapons.
Two words: CORRECTIVE TRAINING.
Spend time with your platoon outside of duty time. Have at least two functions a year that soldiers can bring their families to.
Allow your sergeant to have "sergeants time" because what can get accomplished may at some point move you to tears.
Yelling is fun and theraputic, but sometimes speaking softly has a greater impact.
No matter what, in any situation, do what makes sense.
Remember, your job is two fold; you are molding educated young men to take other young men into combat and you are molding all of them into being leaders. At some point in your career, the young man who was your first PL, could end up being your BC (and you his Sergeant Major), and that mealy mouthed specialist from back in the day could be Alpha Company's new First Sergeant.
And that unsure private who you had in your platoon only 4 months before PCS'ing about six years ago is now over in 1st Platoon, teaching a fresh faced kid 24 year old kid from Michigan who doesn't know shit how things really work.
:: Comments left behind ::
I was that 22 year-old kid from Michigan who had a platoon sergeant who did all these things, and taught me one of the most important lessons of all: trust. My predecessor as platoon leader, a snooty Hudson High grad who kept his NCOs on a very short leash (think Doug Niedermeyer without the vicious streak), had alienated his entire platoon. (Don't get me wrong, my best friend in the battalion was also a West Pointer). I came into the unit just in time for an FTX. My platoon had 81mm mortars and two TOW systems. The TOWs were often detached to Battalion's AT platoon, and pretty well took care of themselves, but the mortars required more hands-on attention. First question from somewhat wary platoon sergeant: "Sir, where do you want to set up the mortars?" My response, "Sergeant S-, you've been doing this a lot longer than I have. Where would you put them?" He told me where, and why, I said do it, we did, and the exercise evaluators gave us top marks for mortar siting. So we got off to a good start, and it got better. I trusted him to give me good advice, and he trusted me, over time, to make the right decision. Looking back on it over 30 years later, that was still the best job I had in the Army, and it was mostly because I had a platoon sergeant I could rely on.
An excellent list of rules. I saw this personally during my first enlistment back in the 70's from a crusty old Viet Nam vet.
Unfortunately, I also saw the opposite from his successor. By the time I became an NCO I witnessed how a platoon sergeant that lacked almost every positive quality could almost ruin not only his platoon, but nearly bring down an entire battalion, and nearly ruin most of his subbordinates including me. I was extremely fortunate to have had the prior example to look back on.
In the end, the better example stuck. Although I eventually retired as only a SSgt, I had the honor of having more than one NCO that eventually outranked me tell me that I was the best platoon sergeant that they had ever had. I don't really agree with that assessment, but at least I can feel comfortable in the fact that I may have done something right. This was all thanks to the example provided by one outstanding platoon sergeant early in my career.