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July 2004

Vietnam Vets - Opportunity to Win a Vietnam Trip and Tour

The Webmaster at Walking For Chance sent this VFW link to an opportunity for Vietnam veterans to win a trip to and in-country tour of Vietnam.

If you received a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam, you could be one of 12 lucky veterans to be selected for the VFW's "Return to Vietnam" trip.

The in-country tour, which will be April 8-17, 2005, will take the selected veterans to Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi, Hue, the DMZ, Hoi An, Marble Mountain and China Beach. Airfare, accommodations and meals are included.

Entries will be selected in a drawing to be held Nov. 15, 2004. Winners will be notified by mail or e-mail in early December. Click to read more.

If you know of a Vietnam who might be interested in this, please forward the link to the VFW.

Also, Lean Write blogger John S. sends this link to The Viet Myths Conference being held in Boston at the same time as the Democrat Convention.

A Question For Kerry

I have just one question for John Kerry that will clear up much about his ideas and strategies for a more peaceful world and restore the US to a "respected" world leadership role.

    If John Kerry were President, in order to create a *more* international coalition in Iraq, what country would he convince to provide major support (like Great Britain)?

Could one of you at the Convention just ask him this one, please? I think it will clear up a lot of fog on this issue about international leadership.

[Note: NATO is not a country. The EU is not a country.]

Terror In The Skies and Freaking Out Over Nothing

I haven't commented on the Annie Jacobsen story because so many better bloggers have done so in spades. I watched her hour-long interview on MSNBC. I've read ten or twenty articles about the incident and countless blog posts.

Michelle Malkin (thank the lord that she's blogging!) has been standing against some of the idiocy surrounding the ordeal. Here are a few points that I think are important to this debate:

1. If the Jacobsens' story is true, I believe that it was a 'dry run'. There were too many weird coincidences...

2. If I were on the plane, I think that I would have a difficult time NOT getting up and telling those men (who all got up and went to the bathroom during the descent to LAX) that they need "to sit down, NOW." What happened to those guys with the t-shirts that read "Stand In The Aisle and See What Happens!"? I'm so surprised that the passengers did nothing. I'd much rather find out that I was wrong about an attack and sincerely apologize, than find out too late that I was right and did nothing to save my child, my spouse, or myself (let alone 3,000 people).

3. I know a few Air Marshals. In fact, when I blog about going to Cubs or Sox games, I am usually with a friend of mine who happens to be an Air Marshal. They are extremely well trained and completely in control of themselves. They will never identify themselves to passengers until after they have contained an incident. Therefore, I think it would be fine to speak your mind about proper behavior on a flight - just don't expect an Air Marshal to do anything unless the flight is in jeopardy.

4. Trust the government with my family's lives? Are you out of your *bleep*ing mind?! After the FBI, Air Marshalls, and Homeland Security checked out the Syrian band players, they let them go...but the Syrian men were here on expired Visas. Nice going, fellas...

So, there's a lot of respectable bloggers criticizing the Jacobsens for freaking out (just check out the links at Michelle Malkin's post).

I, too, am critical of the Jacobsens. They didn't do enough...

Update 07-25-04: Due to recent emails and some gentler comments about racism and this issue, here's something that I feel needs to be said:


Men of middle eastern descent acting suspiciously on a plane. Come on, who gets up on a descent to use the bathroom?! All at the same time?! Next time I take a flight with Snopes, I'll ask him to join me at the Men's Room...

Let me ask you this question that I've posted before - When was the last time, upon seeing a plane in the sky, that you hoped that some crazy Mexicans didn't take control of the plane?

While that question will eventually be rendered irrelevant soon as Al Qaeda is recruiting non-Arabs/Middle-Easterners (Padilla, anyone?), I think by calling concern "racism" you are finding excuses to not look at the root cause of this problem - "Islam" and the Muslim societies that produce hate.

The V22 Opsrey- A Plane Or A Boondoggle


John W. sends this article in the Ft. Worth Telegraph about the V22 Osprey. He was involved in the project and knew many of the men killed during the testing of the aircraft.

Osprey or Albatross Texas politicians keep reviving the bird that had claimed more lives and dollars than any other aircraft being developed By Robert Bryce

Compared to the V-22, Lazarus was a piker. He rose from the dead only once.

The V-22 should have been killed, dead and buried half a dozen times by cost- and safety-conscious bureaucrats. And yet, thanks largely to the Texas Congressional delegation, the V-22 continues to stay aloft, gnawing big chunks out of the Pentagon budget. Not even Dick Cheney, a man who has never been considered anything but a devout hawk, could drive a stake through the heart of the V-22, even though he spent his entire tenure as George H.W. Bush's defense secretary trying to do just that.

The V-22, also known as the Osprey, continues to feast at the federal trough despite a cost record that could bankrupt Warren Buffett and a safety record that would make Evel Knievel think twice. By the end of this year, the Pentagon will have built about four dozen copies of the exotic tilt-rotor aircraft at a cost of $16 billion. Out of those aircraft, four V-22s and one prototype have crashed. In fact, the V-22's safety record is so bad, Pentagon spokesmen refuse to provide comprehensive accident statistics on the flying machine. Four of the first 15 versions of the V-22 ended up in smoldering ruins. Over the past few years, V-22 crashes have killed 26 Marines and four civilians...

Read the whole article. While it is obviously against the development of the Osprey, it contains a lot of historical information about tilt-rotor aircraft and the political decisions surrounding the Osprey.

John wants to know what you think, not so much about the Osprey as a military aircraft, but about politicians involvement in spending money on military projects that either (1) don't work or (2) get our people killed. Boiled Down: Do they care about jobs in their district more than the lives of our military men and women?

I have a very good friend in Aviation Force Development for the Army. They are looking into the viability of the aircraft. The last thing that I said to him when he told me about the V-22 was "Jim, whatever you do, just don't volunteer to fly the damn thing."

Another friend of mine is in Marine Aviator school right now. Every once in awhile, I worry that he'll be put on the Osprey project...

Samir - Someone You Should Know

Did you ever wonder who that guy was holding Saddam on the ground?


Well, KSDK TV (NBC) in St. Louis, Missouri, found him. His name is Samir and he was a translator for the Army during the quest to capture Saddam.

EXCLUSIVE: Local Man Tells Of Helping Capture Saddam

By Deanne Lane

(KSDK) -- It's a world famous photograph, showing a man wearing military camouflage holding Saddam Hussein down on the ground. What few people knew, until now, that man lives in the St. Louis area.

"I just told myself it can't be, no way," says 34 year old Samir. He's asked us not to use his last name, or identify exactly where he lives.

Samir worked with the military as an interpreter. He was at the remote farm on December 13th, when U.S. forces discovered a secret hiding place. The next few minutes will feel like a lifetime for Samir.

"We saw the hole for the bunker but it hard to believe someone live in that hole. It was really small," Samir remembers. "They shot in there and he started yelling, "Don't shoot, don't shoot, don't kill me.'" So I had to talk to him. I was the translator. I said, 'Just come out.' He kept saying, 'Don't shoot. Don't kill me.'"

In Arabic Samir said he continued to pursuade Saddam to come out. He was about to come face to face with the tyrant who killed his loved ones. Saddam was the reason he fled Iraq in 1991 and eventually moved to St. Louis.

Samir says, "I was like, 'I got him.'" We all reached him and pulled him out. And we say Saddam Hussein he looks really old. He looks disgusting." There was also anger. "You want to beat the crap out of him. He destroyed millions in Iraq. I'm one. I left my family 13 years ago because of him."

Saddam couldn't fight back, but he did speak out. "He called me a spy. He called me a traitor. I had to punch him in face. They had to hold me back. I got so angry I almost lost my mind. I didn't know what to do. Choke him to death. That's really not good enough."

For Samir, this was sweet justice. One of Iraq's own, now a U.S. citizen, helping arrest one of the world's most wanted fugitives. "I said 'Who are you? What's your name?' He replied, 'I'm Saddam.' Saddam what, I asked. He said, 'Don't yell. I'm Saddam Hussein."

Now, many months later, Samir had another emotional moment in store. He would meet the leader of the free world, when President Bush attended a campaign rally in St. Charles. Samir says, "I told him I'm the one who had to talk to Saddam and the first one who grabbed him."

Samir says he spoke from the heart. "This is the message from Iraqis and my family. They want to thank you to free Iraqis from Saddam. And he said, 'You're welcome.'"

During their meeting, Mr. Bush received a photo from Samir, and special beads that Samir's parents gave him for protection. "It's like a blessing. It's important to me and I want you to have it. He tapped me on shoulder and said, 'Great work.'"

Soon, Samir will return overseas for more work as an interpreter. He says he's glad to do it for the country he now calls home. "I don't call myself hero. I call it lucky. A lot of people helped but I was there at the right time."

Thanks to John Wolff, Executive News Producer at KSDK, for letting me know about the story.

[Read about more people "that you should know" - here]

Firefighters and Soldiers - Redux


Some points for today that you should be aware of here at Blackfive:

1. The annual Chicago-New York Firefighter baseball game is this weekend. It's a big rivalry. Huge rivalry.
2. I ran into some firefighters from NY at O'Toole's tonight. From the Pride of Midtown...
3. For all of you New Yorkers that read Blackfive, Firefighter Tim Greene from 54 Engine represented you very well and put some (but not all *ahem "me"*) Chicagoans to shame. He's a maniac to be proud of...
4. Tim's brother fought at 73 Easting in the first Gulf War. Hooah!
5. I think that I promised to buy every single NY Firefighter lunch today. Not only am I good for it, I hope they all show up. Tim, get 'em to me.
6. The Chicago firefighters that I know that went to help at ground zero spent months collecting body parts. The NY Firefighters that I know spent months doing their jobs while dealing with a monumental but heroic loss.
7. As a combat Veteran, I feel absolutely humbled to be in the presence of such men. It's just one more reminder of how lucky I am to live in a country where hundreds of men would rush into a doomed building in the hopes of saving just one American. Just one. They would risk everything for you.
8. FDNY drink like fiends so I might not be as "prolific" as usual.

Finally, in the spirit of brotherhood, I was given access to a web site where the FDNY firefighters collected pictures from 9/11 and after. I was told that it would be okay if I used the photos for the right reasons.

But now, I don't think that I should post some of the photos. They are for the inner circle that lost their brothers that awful day. It's for you guys, only. Thank you.

I think that you Blackfive visitors would understand.

God Bless the FDNY!

Update: Tim told me that he wants me to share a few photos. Here is firefighter Tim Greene on September 11th with Towers 4 and 5 in the background - just before they came down.


How to Make MREs Better...

Here's the "history" of the MRE over at FAS. And MRE Menus has a comprehensive list of the menus that have changed over the years.

I was the kind of soldier that would do anything to improve my MRE - trade, steal (from Class I, not fellow soldiers), or otherwise doctor with ingredients from the local economy or from care packages. I'm pretty sure that I threatened to kill a guy with a pork pattie one time after a long deployment.

Anyway, I used to make pizza with the beef pattie, get the cheese from another MRE, ketchup, and a cracker and, viola!...you get...crappy pizza.

So who's got some killer recipes for MREs? Let's hear 'em.

How To Make MREs Worse...

Okay, now I'm pissed!

Yeff sends this New Scientist article about an improvement in hydrating Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE).

Army rations rehydrated by urine
Would you eat food cooked in your own urine? Food scientists working for the US military have developed a dried food ration that troops can hydrate by adding the filthiest of muddy swamp water or even peeing on it...

I've never been a fan of the MRE. I always found it strange that some soldiers LOVE them. Don't start emailing me hate mail about how great these things are...I've only been out of things for a few years. MREs couldn't have gone gormet in that amount of time. Get a grip...or some new taste buds.

I understand that, for certain short-term survival situations, this may be a really good idea. But for the million or so other soldiers eating these things, um, not so good.

...The ration comes in a pouch containing a filter that removes 99.9 per cent of bacteria and most toxic chemicals from the water used to rehydrate it, according to the Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts. This is the same organisation that created the "indestructible sandwich" that will stay fresh for three years (New Scientist print edition, 10 April 2002).

The aim is to reduce the amount of water soldiers need to carry. One day's food supply of three meals, weighs 3.5 kilograms but that can be reduced to about 0.4 kilograms with the dehydrated pouches, says spokeswoman Diane Wood.

The pouch - containing chicken and rice initially - relies on osmosis to filter the water or urine. When two solutions of different concentrations are separated by a semipermeable membrane, with gaps that allow only water molecules to pass through, the water is drawn to the more concentrated side...

*groan* Why do they experiment with the Chicken and Rice? Yuck! Next to the Tuna-And-Noodles, I can't really think of a more disgusting meal...unless you happen to urinate on it.