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January 2005

Friends of Democracy

Received this info (which I have paraphrased) about Friends of Democracy:

The site is called "Friends of Democracy: Ground level election news from the people of Iraq." To the best of my knowledge there is nothing else like it anywhere out there, at least not in English. (There is also have an Arabic site.)

http://www.friendsofdemocracy.info/

We have more than a dozen local Iraqi correspondents, at least one in each province, filing daily reports. These reports include news, interviews, quotes, photos, whatever they can get in a day. They aren't professional journalists. They are more or less ordinary Iraqis. Some of them you already know – Omar and Mohammed from Iraq the Model, for example. Others you don't know because they don't speak or write in English. Their reports are translated from Arabic before they are uploaded to the reports site.

The main site summarizes, excerpts, and links to the reports from the field. There will also be excerpts and links to essays and posts in the Iraqi blogosphere and - on rarer occasions - stories in the mainstream and Middle Eastern media. The idea is to let Iraqis themselves tell their own story of their own first free election.

<...>

This is for, about, and mostly by the Iraqi people themselves.

http://www.friendsofdemocracy.info/

Check it out and watch for the reporting before, during, and after the election.


Yesterday

Yesterday was Australia Day, India Republic Day, and a certain blogger's birthday.

In the midst of celebrations (and I was live blogging from Dublin's Pub and moving to a certain Owl-themed restaurant), I received this information from Amy and Seamus:

A message from the Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division:

    The 26th of January 2005 was a tragic day for the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the 1st Marine Division.  Thirty-one of our brothers in arms perished in a helicopter crash while conducting security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province.  Although our mission is dangerous and we understand the risk associated with our task, losses of this magnitude remind us all of how fragile life is.  Our Division has reflected on the sacrifice of these brave warriors and said a prayer for their families and friends.  Although our hearts are burdened by this loss, we continue to march toward our goal of a free and democratic Iraq.  We will honor their sacrifice with our deeds.  The first free election in Iraqi history will occur in no small part due to the efforts of the members of the 1st Marine Division who have sacrificed for this historic day.

    We also send our condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones from the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing.  We often talk about the Marine Corps being a family.  Whenever a family loses one of its’ own, it comes together to find the strength and courage to persevere.  Today we are not separated by unit, occupational specialty, or rank; but rather joined by the bonds forged of 229 years of brotherhood.  Together we will carry on. We honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation.

    May God bless all those who we have lost and the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and families of the 1st Marine Division.

I deleted the only post yesterday in mid-revelry because, obviously, I didn't think it appropriate anymore.  Many toasts were made to the Marines (and one Sailor) yesterday.

Edd Hendee is an embed with the Lone Star Times and wrote about the tragedy.

Thanks to the few commenters from yesterday - I'm sure you understand.


The Other Side Of The Story - Pilot Refutes SFTT Story

About a hundred emails arrived in my In-Box with a copy of Soldiers For The Truth's guest opinion by Ed Stanton

Ed is the pseudonym of a Naval Officer aboard the USS Lincoln and wasn't happy with the Tsunami relief efforts - mostly due to the arrogance and attitudes of the UN staffers.

...What really irritated me was a scene I witnessed in the Lincoln’s wardroom a few days ago. I went in for breakfast as I usually do, expecting to see the usual crowd of ship’s company officers in khakis and air wing aviators in flight suits, drinking coffee and exchanging rumors about when our ongoing humanitarian mission in Sumatra is going to end.

What I saw instead was a mob of civilians sitting around like they owned the place. They wore various colored vests with logos on the back including Save The Children, World Health Organization and the dreaded baby blue vest of the United Nations Mixed in with this crowd were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military officers in uniform.

They all carried cameras, sunglasses and fanny packs like tourists on their way to Disneyland. My warship had been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of trifling do-gooders overnight...

I just received an email from a Naval Aviator aboard the Lincoln who disputes Stanton's claims and wants you to hear the other side of the story.  Here are the words of Lieutenant Commander Jeff Vorce:

As a Navy helicopter pilot flying humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, I was startled and dismayed by the inaccuracies of Ed Stanton's editorial, "No Relief in Sight for the Lincoln."  While I can't comment on the actual individual who drafted the article (he chose to hide behind a pen name), his writing is indicative of a disgruntled officer who hasn't actually seen the true scope of the devastation ashore or the work that is being done by his shipmates to help.

The people of Indonesia genuinely appreciate our assistance.  There are homemade American flags that the hungry and injured have made and display in the makeshift landing zones where we drop off medical supplies, food, and water to prove it.  My heart swells with pride (and I choke up a little) every time I see hundreds of displaced persons cheer, salute, and flash a big smile or a thumbs-up when my crewmen are off-loading boxes marked with red, white, and blue stickers that proclaim, "Food from the American People."

The Indonesian government (rightly so) is in charge of the overall relief effort underway on the western coast of Sumatra.  Last time I checked, it is their country.  Simply put, we are here to aid them with their recovery.  We are merely one part of what could end up as the largest relief effort in history.  The resources and personnel of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are working in concert with the people of Indonesia, other nations, militaries, and a host of non-governmental relief agencies including US AID, Red Cross & Red Crescent Society, WHO, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, and the WFP.

The civilians that have been transported by our helicopters and have been hosted aboard the carrier are not a "traveling circus" of aid workers or "trifling do-gooders."   On the contrary, these are professionals who have years of experience in mitigating human suffering and tragedy.  While there are many highly trained men and women deployed alongside me, there are few (if any) who have expertise in the prediction of malaria transmission vectors, the proper disposal of tens of thousands of human remains, creating a system to match orphaned children with distant relatives, reviving an entire economy, prioritizing bridges or roads to be re-built, or any of the other skills sets that are so critical to disaster relief.

I find it curious that Mr. Stanton complains about having to wait in line to get food behind men and women who are supporting the same mission as his brothers and sisters in arms.  He fails to mention that, in addition to a hot meal or two and a bed to sleep in, the carrier is providing planning space to aid in coordinating the operation, computer and communications assistance, and video teleconferencing services for lead international relief workers and organizations.  Comparable facilities in Sumatra have been completely destroyed or are without power. The key to the US military's withdrawal from this operation is a speedy turnover with international organizations that can provide the same services and support-the very reason that they were onboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

The description of an aircraft carrier as an "instrument of national policy" is accurate.  The belief that the offensive strike capability of the air wing she carries is the only way to project this policy is flawed. Here in Indonesia, such an assumption is a slap in the face to the sailors who volunteered to go ashore and load thousands of pounds of rice into helicopters each day in the tropical heat.  It fails to take into account the talent of the ship's engineering teams that were able to repair generators at the local hospital and restore electrical power.  It overlooks the heroism of the navy medical personnel that saved countless lives in the wake of the tsunami's devastation.  It doesn't begin to calculate the strategic value of clothing donations, a soccer ball tossed from a helicopter, or a handful of candy given to children who have lost everything they have.

With respect to the media, the only negative portrayal of Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE (the name given to the US military's regional response to the tsunami disaster) I have seen was Mr. Stanton's.  The Indonesian press has praised our work and questioned the paucity of relief assistance from other Islamic nations.  Military service members often complain that the media "doesn't get it right" and fails to cover all of the positive work we do; this time the media got it right and Mr. Stanton got it wrong.

Sincerely,

LCDR Jeff Vorce, USN

If anyone from the media wants to contact Lieutenant Commander Vorce, I have his email address.

[Big thanks to Victoria for sending LCDR Vorce's eloquent rebuttal]


Soldiers' Voices

I've had the opportunity to speak with a few dozen Soldiers who I served with over the last ten years.  I just finished the last discussion on the 19th.  I'm not going to get specific, but I will tell you the general consensus of a few of their thoughts on the War, Rumsfeld, and Troop Strength.

The Soldiers range from Sergeant (E-5) to Captain (O-3), and all, at one time or another, served with me when I was their Commander.  All are married.  One is female.  They are educated - almost all of them have undergrad degrees and four have advanced degrees.  For example, one Staff Sergeant has an MBA in Finance from Notre Dame and is resuming his second year of law school right now.  One of the Warrant Officers has a law degree and is pursuing his cert. in Actuarial Science.  Another soldier, a Captain, has an MBA from Stanford.

While I might agree or disagree with these concepts, I didn't add my thoughts to this post.

1.  The Duration Plus Six Concept - All believe that, at the start of the war, the entire force should have mobilized for "the duration plus six months".  This is what was done during WWII.  This would have set expectations correctly for the coming fight.  "The duration plus six months" mentality means that everyone (Active, Reserve, Guard) is mobilized until six months after the war is over.  It's a fight till it's over mentality. 

Expectations are very important to morale, family readiness, etc. for deploying soldiers.  If you think that you'll be deployed for a year and then back home on the block, and you're stuck in Iraq for another six months, morale plummits.  Then you come home for six months to a year before heading back.

Soldiers are much more willing to do what is needed to be done when they know that they are in the fight until it's over.  No false expectations.  Let's get this @#$%er done and go home...

2.  Troop Strength - All believe that the Army needs more than 30-40,000 additional soldiers.  And most believe the Marines should be significanlty plussed up in the MEUs (and all should be SOC).  Troop strength increases will take time, but will be necessary for years.

Three think that a draft will be necessary if Iraq continues to need over 100,000 troops.

Five think that military action outside of Iraq and Afghanistan is imminent.  Syria was considered the most likely candidate for an introduction into the capabilities of the US military...

One thought that the entire Reserve force would be mobilized in the near term.

3.  Donald Rumsfeld should resign - Everyone likes Rummy.  However, nine soldiers think that he should resign immediately after the elections in Iraq.  The rest think June is more appropriate for Rummy to step down.

If a Commander in the field had the same kind of problems that SecDef had, he/she would have been removed.  It's a responsibility issue, not a like/dislike issue.  He should accept responsibility and step down.  Most feel that it's not fair to have higher standards for Soldiers than for the Civilian leaders of the DOD.

Half thought that General Schoomaker should resign as Army Chief as well. 

All think that General (ret.) Eric Shinseki was right and crazy.  He was right that we would need more troops in Iraq.  And he was crazy for issuing berets to raise morale...yeah, that one is still really bothering everybody.  No one thinks he was removed for his dissenting opinion as he was supposed to retire.  No one liked Shinseki very much.

Most thought that the E-4 who questioned Rumsfeld at the Q&A was a "carpet-bagger" for the media (one Sergeant's term for him).  Two thought that he had guts, but most thought he was just dumb...Most had more respect for Rummy after the Q&A.


Support Recruiter Threatened At Seattle Central Community College

By now, everyone has heard of the horrible behavior on the part of some community college students in Washington state.  They tore up recruiting brochures, threatened recruiters, and stopped recruiting on campus for security reasons.

[Nice going, threatening the very guys that are protecting your right to act like @$$holes to protest.]

Jeff C., a retired Marine, copied me on an email that he sent to the recruiter from the photo, Sergeant First Class Jeff Due, and his entire chain of command:

From this retired United States Marine to SFC Jeff Due:

You are a GREAT AMERICAN! Caught the photo of you standing up to those Seattle Central Community College panty waists. As Chesty Puller said at Chosin Reservoir, "So they've got us surrounded. Good! Now we can fire in any direction. Those bastards won't get away this time!"

Chin up Jeff! You are a good man in a noble profession. Better pickins' elsewhere.  Guys like you are responsible for recruiting the greatest Land Army the world has ever seen. I'd be proud to serve with you any day. Thank you so much for the job you do. God Bless! Hooah! Arrrugah!

Jeff
Marine Rifleman (In Repose)

You, too, can email Sergeant First Class Jeff Due and let him know that he is doing a great service for his country and that he displayed the utmost professionalism in the most stressful of situations.  He did the right thing by leaving instead of beating about 120 candy-asses into the ground responding to the threats.  You may want to copy SFC Due's chain of command - Lieutenant Colonel Barrowman and Command Sergeant Major Montgomery.


Around the Blogosphere

Right now, a few bloggers are listing their top 40 favorite blogs.  Here are a few of my guilty pleasure blogs - the ones I visit when I have time to actually pay attention and hear what they're sayin'.

If you don't stop by Eric's Straight White Guy blog, you might miss gems like this - Relax.

Acidman at Gut Rumbles goes to the Dentist.  Reminds me that I'm overdue.

Sarah at Trying to Grok writes about clarity in homecomings (and Mrs. Sims).

More later...


MilBlogger Receives Silver Star...

...for actions on June 24th.  His friend Sarah of Trying to Grok sent the story.

After reading his accounts of Fallujah and seeing the AP Photo of him taking out a sniper from outside of his tank ("because firing an AT4 is cool"), Armor Geddon became one of my favorite reads instantly.  If he survives his tour, Lieutenant Neil Prakash is going to come home looking like a Russian General.

Here's the account for the Silver Star.

Here is Armor Geddon - Red Six's blog.  Check out the account by a guest poster - a Sergeant from Prakash's unit.

[Thanks to about thirty people for emailing me the account of the Silver Star]


Meet the Mad Ghosts

US Marine LtCol Mark Smith, Commander of the Mad Ghosts, sends another letter which includes (1) info about the Marines in his command in their own words, (2) MLK's legacy and the Marines, and (3) more about the media and LTC Tim Ryan.  He wraps up with a tribute to Corporal Robert Warns (which  I've linked to before - it's amazing and a must see).

It's a long letter, worthy of your time, about the Marines of the 2/24th Battalion (USMC Reserve - Chicago, Illinois), in Iraq.

Mayhem from the Heartland!!!

It is my deepest wish that all are well, excited for the challenges that lie ahead, and full of life and spirit!

As we draw ever closer to historic elections in the Arab World, and help set the world on an undeniable course towards democracy and freedom, and away from tyranny and terror, I hope to share some moments of illumination that were achieved in the past week since we last spoke.  By way of reaching that destination, I ask you to indulge me as my partners on a journey.  A ride if you will, not unlike a thrill ride at Disney World.  (Come to think of it, I think I will take my beautiful wife and daughters to Disney World, if the Lord sees fit to return me home standing.  For in all my trips to Disney, it really is the happiest place on earth.  Who can be mad at Disney World? And I know my wife and daughters have earned it.  But, I digress.)

This journey begins with meeting some of the Mad Ghosts.  We are going to meet the Mad Ghosts of the S-1 section.  Now, the S-1 section is the Battalion Administration section.  They handle everything from pay to record books to awards to performance appraisal to legal.  And, in this new fourth generation warfare, they also handle FOB employee badging, interpreter support, detainee handling and processing, etc., etc., etc.  These duties, like every duty in the Battalion are performed a minimum of 12 hours a day, with their personal responsibilities as Marines taking another 6: weapons cleaning, gear accountability, laundry, haircuts, improvised physical training, and on and on. There are no days off, it is 24/7.  And, they are routinely tasked for combat operations both defending the FOB and "outside the wire."  They are typical of every Marine in this Battalion in effort and scope, just different in primary responsibilities.  However, the reason that I chose the S-1 section is they are shining examples of what this War on Terror is really all about.

Now, the way I intended originally to do this was to do a short description of these Marines.  I asked them to provide Maj Sullivan, the S-1, a quick biography. However, when I received the product I asked for, I immediately knew I could not do justice by any method or manner than to cut and paste their own words.  For two reasons: one - it shows the level of professionalism I deal with.  I asked for simple background, I got the heart and soul of who they are; two – their personalities are illustrated in their words.  The quiet ones write little, the jokesters write much.  But in each of them, you will see the indominateable spirit I see every single day. You will see the magnificent warriors that are US Marines. You will see the people behind the numbers.  You will see the tip of the spear! So, Ladies, at this time, let me introduce to you the S-1 Marines of TF 2/24, or Mayhem 1:

Continue reading "Meet the Mad Ghosts" »


Kerry Coercion

I just obtained this official photo.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.  Notice Specialist Lacourse's right hand?

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the signal she's sending? 

To some, it's the POW hand signal for coercion.  I was ready to send SAR when seeing that one.

Heh.  Good for you, Specialist!  Huah!!!

Temp_display_img_4136

Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., greets Soldiers hailing from his state at Camp Al Tahreer in Baghdad, Iraq Jan. 5. During the visit, Kerry discussed sports, the presidential election, and the state of the war in Iraq. Pictured from left to right are: Spc. Michelle Lacourse, 126th Aviation Battalion; Pfc. Kevin Cole, 356th Engineer Battalion; Spc. Michael Foly, 356th Engineer Battalion; Sgt. Raymond Hegarty, 356th Engineer Battalion. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Charles Maib, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

[Blackfive note:  You would think that the Army would screen these photos first.  Hhhmmm.  Maybe they did...]

Update:  Not a photoshop - http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050106/ids_photos_wl/r4114147535.jpg - some of you should have your Cool-Kid Photoshop Club Membership revoked.  ;->