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February 2008

Air Force blocking blogs?

Ok everybody all loosened up? We have a situation that appears to be a moment of monumental foolishness on the part of the US Air Force. They have instituted a policy blocking almost all blogs and while that is bad, the rationale is worse, much worse. Here is my email requesting clarification.

Dear MAJ Schott,

I write for Pajamas Media as well as the award-winning military blog Blackfive. I read a piece at Wired that concerned me, and you were quoted in it saying the following.

  "AFNOC has imposed bans on all sites with "blog" in their URLs, thus cutting off any sites hosted by Blogspot. Other blogs, and sites in general, are blocked based on content reviews performed at the base, command and AFNOC level ...

    The idea isn't to keep airmen in the dark -- they can still access news sources that are "primary, official-use sources," said Maj. Henry Schott, A5 for Air Force Network Operations. "Basically ... if it's a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it's fairly cut and dry that that's a good source, an authorized source," he said ... "

Is the quote accurate? Does that reflect the view that the US military now decides what sources of information service members may access? Will you now decide which magazines they can subscribe to, what DVDs they may buy?

The reason Blackfive is an award-winning blog is because we spend considerable time and effort debunking the many untruths and misperceptions perpetuated by those same major media outlets you laud. I suppose our troops should be treated to the high standards the NY Times and other major outlets used in reporting these staged propaganda events as news.
The world is a big, dangerous place MAJ Schott and you and the bright folks at AF Network Operations must certainly have better things to do than attempt a petty 1984 play to control the news. You don't own the news and neither does Old Media anymore. Blogs and other forms of new media are growing leaps and bounds specifically because of the shortcomings of the agenda-driven outlets you would limit our troops to.

I anxiously await your reply that this was all a prank played by an airman with an overzealous, and poorly-tuned funny bone.

I request any clarification from the B5 readership regarding this and will publish any pertinent info. WOW, what a bonehead move.


The Rock and the Stack

    "AQI is on the run here and they know we have the means and mobility to kill or capture them where they hide." - Charlie Company First Sergeant Timothy Seeber

    “My guys would walk to the end of this Earth if they were asked to. They realize that this war is bigger than us.” - Staff Sergeant Tommy Pafford.

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Soldiers with Charlie Company "The ROCK", 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division prepare to enter and clear a building Feb. 15, 2008, during Operation Helsinki near the Bichigan peninsula. Location: BALAD, IQ.  Photographer: Spc. Richard Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs.

[Blackfive note:  Thanks to the Sons of Iraq, the Cav Troopers nabbed an AQI operative.]


...And Now For An Important Message From Your Friendly Neighborhood I.R.S

We need to spread the word on this message far and wide.

Bottom-line:  military members (who don't have to file a return for 2007 due to combat pay exclusions from taxes) will not get the economic stimulus package payment unless they file a return (even for zero payment or zero pay back).

Here's the message:

The IRS is trying to get the word out to everyone who might not have a requirement to file a tax return that the only way to receive a stimulus payment is to file a 2007 return.

In addition to reaching out the the retired veterans, did you know that a soldier/sailor/airmen/marine who normally is not required to file a return because their only income consists of excludable combat pay, may be eligible for a stimulus payment?  If the excluded combat pay amount is at least $3,000 they must file a tax return to receive a stimulus payment. The excluded combat pay would be reported on Line 40b of Form 1040A. Using this line on the form is an election to treat the nontaxable combat pay as earned income for EITC purposes, which may also help provide tax refunds on the original return filing for some combat soldiers.  The soldier would usually be eligible for the minimum payment of $300, plus $300 for a spouse on a joint return. Each qualifying child would add another $300 to the total payment. See the sample Form 1040A on the IRS Web site for how the soldier (or other folks who normally do not file a tax return) would file to get a stimulus payment http://www.irs.gov/pub/newsroom/1040a.pdf  They should elect direct deposit to get their stimulus payment the quickest way possible.

Have you already visited the Rebate Questions? link on IRS.gov?

There is a lot more Tax Information for Members of the Military on IRS.gov. Just click the link and go to "Individuals" and then "Military."

Please help spread the word via blogs and email.

Thanks!


"Iraq and the Marine Corps" - a Corporal's View

Allcon- This was written by David at the end of his tour in November. I've waited to post it for almost three months. Several retired Marine Officers took this email in all its honesty and made sure the chain of command *cough*Commandant*cough* received it in early January.

I'm not trying to air the Corps' dirty laundry. We post AARs here from Marine Corporals occasionally and some have ended up as resources at Army Training Centers and for Commanders and Sergeants headed to Iraq.

It's long and valuable. And I've waited long enough to ensure OPSEC wouldn't be truly violated (this has been posted on some open forums already) and actions could take place.  Thanks to several retired USMC Colonels (still mean, still green, just not as lean) and Corporal Seamus for sending various copies of the AAR.

...and, David, when your next tour in Iraq is over in 2009, look me up. I've got a job for you.

My name is Corporal David XXXX. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2004, and armed with a history degree took a job in Florida negotiating commercial property insurance claims stemming from Hurricane Charlie. I found success but little pleasure in it and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in May 2005. I am currently assigned to TOW Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, which I deployed with from April 6 - October 30, 2006 as a Humvee Driver, Dismount, and Turret Gunner. I deployed again with TOW Platoon April 20 - November 2, 2007 as a Vehicle Commander, Assistant Section Leader, and eventually Section Leader. My platoon provided MSR Security along a well known highway in AO Raleigh, in Anbar Province Iraq. Our platoon was divided into four sections of four Humvees (and later MRAPs), each composed of 14-19 Marines plus corpsman. Between the two deployments I have been on over three hundred combat patrols, and the issues I discuss below stem largely from these experiences. I am scheduled to finish my enlistment with a third tour in the fall of 2008.

There has been tremendous change in AO Raleigh (Fallujah) over the course of and between my 2006 and 2007 deployments. In 2006 my platoon directly encountered approximately 155 IED emplacements (found or detonated) over the course of our seven months in theater. In 2007, tasked with the same mission in the same AO, my platoon encountered about 15 IED emplacements. The concern of most Marine grunts headed to Iraq these days is whether or not they will get their combat action ribbon. I have been told that only about a quarter of the platoon commanders from a recently returning infantry battalion that was stationed in AO Raleigh received their CAR (Combat Action Ribbon). Although I would not argue that this metric from the officer perspective is indicative of combat intensity, it is certainly instructive. Marine grunts are largely getting put to sleep in Anbar, with interesting unexpected side effects.

Some thoughts.

Provisional Security Forces (PSF) work! PSF started showing up in our AO around mid to late may 2007 around one particularly well known access road off of the MSR we patrolled. They fashioned a checkpoint and began to check every vehicle coming through. This example spread quickly and suddenly there were checkpoints popping up everywhere being manned by locals whose sheiks were pro-Coalition. More than the language barrier, these men are from the areas that they police, and therefore know who should and should not be driving through their checkpoints. They are worth their weight in gold. At first PSF checkpoints would be rudimentary, with unshaven men wearing civilian clothes carrying rusty AK-47's milling about. Despite their appearance, the PSF managed to eliminate IED culvert bombs (thousands of pounds of homemade explosive [HME] packed under the road) completely from their immediate area. We saw the difference and quickly made it a point to introduce ourselves and give the PSF concertina wire, glow belts, water, coolers, and just about anything else we could steal. As the deployment went on, PSF developed started making checkpoints in conjunction with the IP's all over the AO, to the point that nearly every major access road leading to our MSR had a checkpoint. PSF acted as an amazing force multiplier that denied the enemy freedom of movement in a manner we could not. Areas in 2006 that were enemy safe havens have been taken back by the PSF. AQI's presence on the ground is no longer felt in most areas we operated, either by the Coalition, ISF, PSF, or Iraqi civilians.

Rules of Engagement/Escalation of Force (ROE/EOF) hinders freedom of action, is run by lawyers who do not understand the combat reality on the ground, but is absolutely essential to our COIN mission in OIF. I hate ROE and EOF. Every grunt does. Once a month we would have classes by our platoon commander and a Navy lawyer (a LAWYER!!!) telling us about different examples of when/what you can or cannot shoot, what constitutes Hostile Act/Intent, and the necessity of Positive Identification (PID). The RCT required us to carry a wallet-sized ROE/EOF card with us on combat patrols at all times, as if during a firefight I would consult it. The entire program is run in a somewhat demeaning manner toward the grunt that is allegedly too stupid to understand what is going on around him. Its presentation is so flawed that the underlying message is largely discarded by those whose reality it effects on a day-to-day basis. This is a shame because restrictive ROE/EOF saves civilian lives, and the war on the ground in Anbar now is less about killing the enemy than not screwing up and antagonizing the local population. We are in a war where an errant warning shot can ricochet and accidentally kill a sheik's daughter in the backseat of a car with dire consequences. It is important to show self-restraint. I remember reading an article by Nate Fick in the Washington Post along these lines. No one likes having a loaded gun pointed at them, and if avoiding accidents means I have to present my weapon, wave a flag, fire a flare, then a warning shot, then a tire shot, then a grill shot, and finally a kill shot, then so be it. But if you are going to insist on these rules, than accordingly it should be explained how in the long run they are actually benefiting that Marine who in the short term takes increased personal risk in showing restraint for the sake of the mission. Most Marines that I know are disdainful of ROE/EOF procedures because this benefit is not properly described. More importantly the long-term positive trends of the past year are sometimes difficult to quantify within the individual Marine's universe. We should be doing a better job of connecting the dots for those on the ground outside the wire between extreme self-discipline in a dangerous environment and the positive developments that such action allows...

Continue reading ""Iraq and the Marine Corps" - a Corporal's View" »


The Freefly- Last Stand of Cut & Run

The wise solons of the Democratic Senate have offered up their latest incarnation of Cut & Run with Harry Reid and mine and Kev's Senator Feingold teaming up. Their cunning plan would start withdrawals and then hamstring our remaining troops putting them back on bases and the Iraqi populace back in the crosshairs. Here is the text of the bill.

SECTION 1. SAFE REDEPLOYMENT OF UNITED STATES TROOPS FROM IRAQ.

    (a) Transition of Mission- The President shall promptly transition the mission of the United States Armed Forces in Iraq to the limited and temporary purposes set forth in subsection (d).

    (b) Commencement of Safe, Phased Redeployment From Iraq- The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment from Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces who are not essential to the limited and temporary purposes set forth in subsection (d). Such redeployment shall be carried out in a manner that protects the safety and security of the United States Armed Forces.

    (c) Use of Funds- Effective 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and except as provided in subsection (d), no funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces.

    (d) Exception for Limited and Temporary Purposes- The prohibition under subsection (c) shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the following limited and temporary purposes:

      (1) Conducting targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and affiliated international terrorist organizations.

        (2) Providing security for personnel and infrastructure of the United States Government.

      (3) Providing training to members of the Iraqi Security Forces who have not been involved in sectarian violence or in attacks upon the United States Armed Forces, provided that such training does not involve members of the United States Armed Forces taking part in combat operations or being embedded with Iraqi forces.

      (4) Providing training, equipment, or other materiel to members of the United States Armed Forces to ensure, maintain, or improve their safety and security.

        (5) Redeploying members of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq.

 

   

On the whole there is no common sense reason to do this and there is no way to square it with any attempt to actually win the war. This attempt to end the war is simply another bone tossed to the howling masses on the left demanding we bring the troops home. If passed it would seal the Dems fate as the party that changed a winning strategy and lost the war. That is why the Republicans voted for cloture, they want all the Dems on the record either win or lose. Hmmm, I wonder if Obama will vote present on this.


William F. Buckley Jr. has died

Buckleysignature 82 magnificent years, but he is gone now. WFB was without a doubt the largest influence on my views regarding life, the universe and everything, after my family. I have said here that I am not a Republican or a conservative but that is not because Buckley didn't do more to draw me there than anyone on the left ever could have led me that way.

I read the book the Fountainhead and then Atlas Shrugged when I was too young to know exactly what a profound choice they forced upon me. Ayn Rand required me to choose between socialism and the primacy of the group or individualism and the primacy of the person. It was a simple choice once it was offered and I chose me. The question then became what to do about this world view.

More than anyone else WFB taught me why the individual should never be subordinated to the collective. I watched him on "Firing Line" and learned that the highest form of argument must be done with those you completely disagree with but still respect. He passionately defended his ideas and although an opponents views could suffer withering attack, good humor and grace always dominated.

I remember taking it as a compliment the first time a friend saw "National Review" on my coffee table and noted "It's not surprising that you read "Uptight White Guy" magazine". It only came every other week, but it was a bright light in a dark and ridiculous world. My favorite part was always "Notes and Asides" where WFB would answer letters and where his wit was free and unrestrained. He would never hesitate to puncture the pompous with short, sharp shots.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. writes to complain about some perceived slight: "I might have hoped that you would have had the elementary fairness, or guts, to provide equal time; but, alas, wrong again." "Dear Arthur," Mr. Buckley replies. "I should have thought you would be used to being wrong."

Last year he released a book compiling these and the title perfectly encapsualates the mood and attitude that were so entertaining in their steadfastness. The book is called "Cancel you own Goddam subscription" which was his retort to someone disgusted by National Review. He opened the gate to any who felt they could poke the lion, and predictably they were shredded.

I read many of his books but I don't think anyone has read them all. My favorites were the sailing books without a doubt. He made some magnificent crossings of both the Atlantic and Pacific with incredible company and reading the accounts was spellbinding. His fascination with celestial navigation was a perfect manifestation of his conservatism. He knew that a man was responsible for taking care of himself and how more simply than using the stars to navigate a sailing ship across vast oceans.

Thanks Bill for every idea you ever midwifed and for standing tallest in the marketplace of ideas. Blue skies and following seas Mr. Buckley.


A surrender monkey says what???

Update:  For those not understanding the title, the definition of Surrender Monkey is here.

I am not certain who is advising the Senator Obama campaign, but he should have kept this this particular set of ideas to himself.

Let's forget about pictures in man-jammies and turbans and all his BS about "Change" and "Hope" and the neo-socialism that promises to "tax the rich" so that I can have a new Corvette, just like all the other CEO's.

Let's talk about our opposition to this and how we are trying to ensure the "so this Nation shall not perish from the Earth" part gets heard.

FFS, this has got to be a joke....  But, in the interest of discussion, let's take these points one by one.

  1. Only candidate who opposed the war from the beginning and as President, I will end it: Not exactly something I would tout about myself, since I would be turning out to be made to look foolish by the continued success of our troops (despite the constant defeatist drumbeat by the Dems and the Traitors in the media).  That, and saying you are going to bend over and grab your ankles leaves only the kissing good-bye part left. Someone prepared to be the fastest to run away from a fight is not someone I want to be in charge of the "support and defend the Constitution" clause of the oath.
  2. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems: Let me be blunt Senator, you are an idiot.  Have you watched the news lately?  Since you may not have, this my be a bit of a shock to you, but We (the US of A) shot down a satellite moving through space.  I won't go into the details, but have you seen any other country on the planet do that?  Where I am from, we would call that a "proven" missile defense system.  If I was investing in something, I like stuff that is "proven," kind of like this.
  3. Slow the development of future combat systems:  You mean like the MRAP?  FCS Ships?  Aegis Cruiser updates?  Land Warrior System?  F-22?  I am certain the Army, Navy, Marines would love that. Sounds like you are locking up that veteran vote faster than I thought.  You can cement it by promising this to all of those living at LSA Anaconda or and major FOB in the ITO.
  4. Independent defense priorities board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary spending: How about an Independent Welfare Priorities Board or an Independent Social Security Priorities Board to ensure that lazy dirtbags who are to lazy to work and the AARP don't use their agendas to justify unnecessary spending?  Yeah, I thought not.
  5. Set a goal of a world without Nuclear Weapons:  Well, everyone should have a goal, but my guidance counselor told me to make it a reasonable goal.  We obviously didn't have the same guidance counselor.
  6. Not develop new nuclear weapons:  Well, not developing new weapons and adapting to new technology worked for the French in WWII when they faced the Germans at the Siegfried Line...  Oh Wait....
  7. Seek a Global ban in Fissile material:  "Dreaaammmm, the impossible dreeeaammm!!!"  Let's see if we can get the Iranians and North Koreans to get the ball rolling.  I am certain if you just talk to them that they will want to comply with that immediately...
  8. Negotiate with the Russians to take our ICBMs off "hair trigger" alert and achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals: Did I miss a memo or a meeting or something?  I thought we won that war.  Are we still doing that whole "however many minutes to midnight" thing?  I am so confused.  I rather like my ICBMs ready to heat up and shoot.  No one wants to have to load their magazines after they find out they are in a gunfight.  I know how this whole "deep cuts" thing works; we reduce our arsenals by destroying our weapons, the Russians reduce their arsenals by selling their warheads to the Iranians, Chinese, North Koreans, or (insert totalitarian or terrorist regime here).

Note to McCain Campaign:  Start sh*t-hammering the daylights out of this guy on this tomorrow.

It is just scary to think of this guy as the leader of the free world....


Beach Landing in Kuwait

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Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit disembark Landing Craft Unit 1635, which ferried them from the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1). Operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the coalition's commitment to help set conditions for security and stability. U.S. forces maintain a naval and air presence in the region that deters destabilizing activities while safeguarding the region's vital links to the global economy.  Photographer: Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Niegel, Navy Visual News Service