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June 2008

Red State, Blue State- Indivdualism v. Collectivism

I always hated the red state/ blue state divide, not for inaccuracy but because we should have been blue. I know red-blooded Americans all that, but in war games we were always blue and the bad guys were red, you know commies. Given our blue teams love for that socialist lifestyle they should have been the red.

The last Presidential election hung on the single issue of the Iraq War, this time we are back to a full spectrum contest. That puts all the sweetness and light, helping out America's oppressed come back into play. That has led to all of us taking a look at what separates us from the other side. The left has a deplorable habit of ascribing the lowest and most base motivations to anyone taking policy positions they disagree with. We get fairly heated with our rhetoric, but I think overall we do a better job of not de humanizing them. It's more like we treat them as deluded souls incapable of taking care of themselves in a dangerous world. They think very hard about things, but missed that first common sense notion that most people are neutral at best and the bad ones dominate. They live in Rodney King's world where we all just get along. The latest and one of the most virulent examples of this is the Cult of the Obama.

Popular culture and the liberal conventional wisdom teaches that America is a fundamentally rapacious victimizer and that your status as a member of this criminal class is something to be ashamed of. The left sure is. They weep into their pillows every night as they consider the crimes of the Bush cartel, which as citizens they are complicit in. Remember the losers with their we are sorry signs. they really are SORRY!

All of the major ideas of modern liberalism have been shown to be miserable failures starting with the incarnation of all that was modern socialism, the Soviet Union. This model of "from each according to ability, to each according to need" turned out just as Ayn Rand had predicted. The weak would ride the backs of the strong and the state apparatchiks would live like kings until the whole Potemkin state collapsed.

People like to denigrate Atlas Shrugged as pompous, grandiose and over the top. Ya' think? But it remains the perfect predictor of your political bent. You are required to choose individualism or communalism. The book should lead you to curse something at  the top of your lungs. If that thing is the greedy, selfishness and lack of care for fellow man, welcome to the left. If it is the parasitic nature of the state and it's minions seeking to harness the power and ingenuity of the strong for the purported benefit of the weak, while actually crushing innovation and productivity, welcome to the right.

The modern welfare state was liberalism's answer to poverty and a safety net for those unable to make it. The law of unintended consequences popped up to show that what it actually did was drive up illegitimacy rates among poor folks. Baby's mommas have Uncle Sugar to pay their bills so Daddy isn't needed. Boy that has really turned out great eh? What's that, you have a better idea, Universal health care? Hmm I wonder how that is going in Canadia and Europe? Oh yeah, years long waiting lists for anything more complicated than a band aid and pretty soon no health care for you if you have any non-PC habits. Smoker, no health care for you. Drinker, None for you. Eat fried foods, under the bus. They know better than you how you should be living and goddam it you will comply.

The right is stuck with the values of self-reliance that built such a powerful stable society that we can have parasites living among us and survive. But the cost is eternal vigilance, as the left believes in progressivism like a religion. They lack an actual God like the right, so they deify Gaia. We must stand firm against their wailings that we are killing the planet (pretty arrogant thought I believe) because they actually seek regression not progression. They want fewer humans, having fewer kids, eating less meat, burning less carbon, developing less land and basically turning into the beta creatures the left believes humans should be.

I strongly disconcur and truly enjoy my spot at the top of the global food chain, both as a species and a nation. Someone has to be there and I much prefer us to the Russians or the Chinese. For all the talk of America the relentless devourers of earth's bounty, there is precious little recognition of the overwhelmingly positive influence we have on the modern world. Since WWII we have been the free world's only reliable defender. Absent the US Navy there would be no global commerce as pirates would operate from the dozens of failed states. Absent our evil Big Pharma industry life expectancy on the planet would be significantly decreased, absent our steadfast opposition of the expansionist Soviet Union large swaths of the planet would have enjoyed the pleasures of totalitarian rule.

The hard thing to do is to credit the other side for good intentions. At the most basic level the left and right both want a safe, free world, the difference is in what policies will achieve that end. That means that although I believe that the policies of an Obama Presidency will be dangerous for our security and likely to greatly increase the power and intrusiveness of the state, I must not demonize those who believe they are simply doing the right thing. They are wrong, but not out of evil intentions, simply because they fundamentally misread human nature. They think you can get everyone to all pitch in and pull their weight. Won't happen and some will always take advantage. The right counts on the ingenuity and productivity of the strong to rise all boats like the tide, with a healthy dose of charity for those unable to take care of themselves and complete contempt for those who choose not to. As I have said, I like our team better.


Driven revisited

My nickname is actually just Driven, I put Null (it means nothing) in the last name field because it requires something there and I hadn't figured out how to not show a last name yet. 

I guess I can let you know a little bit more about me.

I am 26 years old, the most junior of the writers on this blog it appears.  I am still on active duty and I am just a lowly team-leader in the 82nd.  I once shot myself with a M-203 grenade launcher, on accident (who knew those things could bounce right back at you anyway?).  My guardian angel has a sense of humor.

In order for you to understand exactly what I mean I'm going to tell you about how my life was saved once by... well just read what happened.  Be warned there is some blood and language.

One day me and my team were in the DFAC (dinning facility) they wanted ice cream but we were late for a brief. Being the kind hearted softy that I am I compromised and made them get it to go. As we were walking out of the DFAC (my SAW gunner was complaining how hand scooped with sprinkles on top would have been so much better) when a rocket hit outside on the sidewalk.

It hit about where we would have been if we hadn't stopped to pick up ice cream.

We turned around to head back into the DFAC and a second round hit the ice cream bar, where we would have been if we had stopped to get hand scooped with sprinkles on top. 

I said something to the effect of "Well, alright, RUN!"

We got to a nearby bunker as quickly as possible. After a few seconds the rounds stopped raining and the dust settled.  The guy standing next to me says "Ah shit, I'm hit." He had blood on his hands and it was running down his legs. Then about 5 other people said the same thing one after another.

Everyone lived, no one so much as lost a finger or a toe but I'll always remember the day I was saved by ice cream "to go".  As for those soldiers who where injured, they suffered a few minor cuts from shrapnel and recovered with in days.  No one from my team was hurt.  Both rounds were close enough that my ears were ringing for two days.


No Greater Love - Author Interview

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On the steamy afternoon of July 3, 1863 the fierce fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg was reaching its zenith.  The 19th Virginia Infantry was desperately trying to resist an assault by the 19th Massachusetts Infantry.

Finally the center of the Virginians line collapsed and among the Union soldiers pouring through the breech was a young Corporal from Company I.  By the time the surviving Confederates were forced to withdraw, Union Corporal Joseph H. DeCastro stood surrounded by carnage, clutching the captured colors of the 19th Virginia.

Corporal DeCastro holds the distinction of being the first Hispanic to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Since then, at least 43 Hispanic Americans have been awarded the nation's highest honor.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Major General (Ret) Alfred Valenzuela to discuss his new book No Greater Love, the Lives and Times od Hispanic Soldiers.

The book has already received a couple of favorable reviews:

Senator John McCain - Arizona

In this point work, Freddie Valenzuela uses his 33 years of military service as a canvas on which he paints...the moving story of a Hispanic American in service to his nation...I would commend it to you as a wonderful way to explore the nature of service and the meaning of patriotism.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison - Texas

From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, Hispanic Americans have made enormous sacrifices to protect our freedoms, and I am grateful for their service.  In No Greater Love, General Valenzuela highlights the service and dedication of these brave Americans in our military.

You can read the interview here.  Make sure to get this book.


On the street

Its been a few months but I have just returned from Iraq.  I'm starting to miss it.  Don't get me wrong I'm not some war junkie who loves violence.  Its not that.  There I was doing my job, making a difference.  Actually while there I had several jobs.  First I was a 'line dog', a grunt, light infantry.  Second I was a team leader, in charge of a fire team, 3 other line dogs.  Third I was one of the platoon's point men during foot patrols.

There was this street that we were having problems with.  So one night we parked our gun trucks a few blocks away, dismounted and eased up to this street.  It was my turn to be on point that day.  The electricity was out in the city and the night was black as hell.  We had been doing these patrols for 10 months and we were good at it.  The entire platoon could walk down your street and all you'd hear would be the soft rasp of cloth on body armor, the clicks of weapons and ammo.  When we were one block away from this street we moved into single file, with my SAW gunner some meters behind me I stepped out onto the street.

There is nothing like it in the world.  Every fiber of your being is focused on the moment.  You can hear your own breathing and the rush of blood in your ears so loud it should drown out the rest of the world, but you can hear everything else just as easy.  There was absolutely no wind at all.  The night was as still as a sealed tomb.  Even in the dead of night with no stars to be seen, through my night-vision goggles I could see deeper pockets of shadow.  I picked out a route and started moving from shadow to shadow, the platoon silently fell in behind me.  "Moving" isn't the word, 'flowing' is closer to the truth.  Ahead of me I spotted an Iraqi soldier step out of a patch of deep shadow and stretch.  He was wearing no armor and had no weapon so I signaled a silent halt.  These guys were supposed to be watching the street.

I eased up toward them and found his partner asleep on a mat.  So I greeted him in Arabic and watched him nearly jump 5 feet into the air.  After giving him a quiet scolding and making him wake up his partner, down armor and weapons.  We left him to stand his post.  We moved just far enough down the street that he couldn't sense us anymore and watched.  He keep looking after us trying to see if we were still there.  After a while they gave up on trying to see or hear us but stayed on guard.

A few other things happened during the patrol, but is was just another day in Baghdad.  I will never for get that street that night.  I've seen that same road blown all to pieces.  I've seen the sidewalks of that road run red.  But that's not how I remember it.  I remember the intense, deafening silence, the solitude and loneliness when I was the only American soldier on that street.  Sorry if you were expecting a huge fire fight, or the capture of a bad guy.  That does happen, but the largest part of what's going on over there isn't about death or evil...  The vast majority of what we are doing is just this, rebuilding, teaching and leading.  The firefights, the bad guys... its there, it happens everyday, but that's only a small part of what is going on. 


Operation Redwing anniversary

Three years ago today 19 brave men gave their lives on Operation Redwing in Afghanistan. It was the most tragic day in Naval Special Warfare history and devastated the 160th SOAR as well. Godspeed to all these men and their families. We leave on Monday for Denver for a 4th of July event and some time with the family of Danny Dietz as the first part of our tribute to these men. Marcus' book tells the story in Afghanistan we aim to tell more about the men who lived great lives before that day.

There is a memorial today in San Diego and most of the families will be there. Marcus Luttrell will throw out the first pitch at the Padres game.

Eleven Navy SEALs and eight Army commandos died June 28, 2005, during a battle between U.S. forces and Taliban fighters in the Konar province of Afghanistan. The dead included men trained, stationed or living in San Diego County. Only Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell survived. He will throw the first pitch at tomorrow's Padres game. The tribute will include Navy Leap Frogs parachuting into Petco Park and a fly-by of four Navy F-18 fighter jets

SEAL Team:

  • Lt. Michael P. Murphy
  • Petty Officer Matthew Axelson
  • Petty Officer Second Class Danny Dietz

The service members killed-in-action on the crashed helicopter include: 

Nightstalkers:

  • Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio
  • Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota.
  • Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana
  • Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee
  • Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia
  • Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida

SEALs:

  • Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, New Hampshire
  • Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, California
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Oregon
  • Lt. Michael M. McGreevy, Jr., 30, of Portville, New York
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class James E. Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Florida
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, West Virginia
  • Petty Officer Second Class Eric Shane Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nevada

Rest now gentlemen and enjoy a drink in the Hall of Heroes.


Gangland Counterinsurgency

I am aware of no more nimble organization than the US Military. Now the attendant bureaucracy is a shameless nightmare, but I am speaking of the fighting part of the force. When we invaded Iraq our entire military philosophy revolved around mobility and firepower, backed up with awesome technology. 5 years later we have completely adapted to new transportation systems and are fighting a hearts and minds, COIN battle. This take a completely different skill set and one that values knowledge about who is in your battlespace. A shift this profound would be like GM changing from a car manufacturer to a furniture company. Our commanders and troops can work this out and always do.

Marine commanders were also looking for ways to overcome a key advantage insurgents have: They can easily hide among civilians.

"Finding is the problem," Mattis says. "Our soldiers, SEALs and Marines are quite capable of killing these guys. It's how do you find them."

Commanders turned to cops for advice, but they also looked within their own ranks — to Marines who grew up in inner cities.

"The inner-city kid has a unique perspective," says Greg Williams, a retired Detroit area police officer who was recruited by the military to help develop the program. "They have a stronger urban survival instinct. The inner city kid … will see the world a little differently, a little more opportunistically."

To assist with building the training, Williams said he relied on a couple Marine sergeants who grew up in the city and chose the Marine Corps over a life of gangs.

It may be the first time the military has considered growing up in a poor neighborhood as an asset. Some of the colonels and retired officers were initially skeptical that they would learn war fighting skills from young Marines who grew up in the inner city, Lethin says.

During a conference at Camp Pendleton last year, Williams and a sergeant took a group of skeptical senior officers for a walk in a nearby town. The sergeant pointed out dangerous neighborhoods based on where cars were parked, whether there were toys in the yards and other signs that they noticed but the older officers did not.

"When they came back, all the naysayers were thoroughly convinced we were on to something," Lethin says.

Marines can be taught to pick out criminals and insurgents trying to blend into a crowd, if they know what to look for, Williams says.

Well now that is just brilliant. Situational awareness is a vital tool in the non-kinetic portion of the battle and now this includes deciding which civilians are on which team. Since the invasion we have attempted to meet and treat with local Iraqi leaders. Our lack of knowledge about their culture, coupled with language issues left us unable to tell who were good and bad actors. This program will help use a whole range of situational clues to help identify the power structure and the bad guys. Picture this situation.

Sipping chai with a couple dozen of local poobahs in an area that has had insurgent activity. Everyone claims there are no insurgents in their neighborhoods. There is one gentleman who doesn't speak but sits defiantly. As you watch some of the sheiks glance in his direction before answering. Now that is a simple example but much information can be gained by someone trained to look at a armed gang style situation. Obviously the defiant one represents the terrorists, but what are the other allegiances, tribal, neighborhood, etc. A kid who has been in rooms where gangbangers were arguing about drug turf or profits or what ever is going to have an expert eye in this room which is essentially the same dynamic. They will see subtle postures, deferences given, threats implied and many other tells that identify who plays what role in the game.

I've been in a number of situations where armed belligerents were gathered in close proximity, and no one was quite sure who was who. Whoever sorts that out first has the tactical advantage and that is vital. COIN is a different game and the more adaptations we make like this, the more effective we become. Well done Marines.


Aussies On Board Mercy

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Royal Australian Air Force Leading Air Crewman Laura Kelly plays with a patient aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). Medical professionals from the Philippines, Canada, Japan and Australia are working side-by-side with their American counterparts during Pacific Partnership providing medical, dental, veterinary and construction assistance ashore and afloat.  Photographer: Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Seavey, Navy Visual News Service.


Royal Navy Standing Watch

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A Royal Navy sailors stands watch as ships conduct mine countermeasure operations to survey and clear Mine Danger Areas in the northern Persian Gulf. The aim of this operation is to re-designate the MDAs as Former Mined Areas, making them safer for the maritime community. Maritime security operations help develop security in the maritime environment, which promotes stability and global prosperity. These operations complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

US Navy Photos via U.S. Naval Forces, 5th Fleet Public Affairs.


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A Royal Navy Mine Countermeasure ship HMS Blyth conducts operations to survey and clear Mine Danger Areas in the northern Persian Gulf.


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A Royal Navy dive team conducts mine countermeasure operations to survey and clear mine danger areas of the northern Persian Gulf.


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Royal Navy Mine Countermeasure ships conduct operations to survey and clear Mine Danger Areas in the northern Persian Gulf.


The beginning

A few days ago I was asked if I would be interested in writing for this page by a good friend of mine.  She put me into contact with Blackfive and his group of writers and here I am.  For my first post I feel that I must give you a little bit of information about me.  What follows is a brief overview of my history before the army...

Like most families mine has a single repeating theme that goes back generation after generation. From the revolutionary war onward my family has served this country as soldiers. We trace our history back to the "Swamp Rats" of the colonial militia to the battlefields of the revolutionary war, Confederate and Union soldiers alike. I once researched the old family coats of arms. One side of my family was blue and white, the other black and gold. One family motto read: "Selfless service", the other "Service to Country". Yes, dear reader, you are right, that's corny as hell, never the less, true.

So at the ripe old age of 18 I found myself graduating from high school and heading off into the 'real' world. Unlike most high school students I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Since before I can remember I have always wanted to be a soldier. Many family photo's show me wearing some camouflage if not completely 'green'. During hunting trips with my dad it was never stalking deer on my family's ranch in Mississippi, no I was on patrol with the South Vietnamese Army through the jungles of Vietnam. I spent most of my time in the woods and hills near my home. Hunting and camping was my way of life. When I wasn't playing I worked on the family ranch. Days spent loading and unloading bales of hay in the sweltering Mississippi humidity and heat combined with a super fast metabolism turned me into five foot, eleven inches, one hundred and thirty pounds of steel and sex appeal (as a friend of mine used to say).

About the time Top gun and Iron Eagle came out I switched from soldier to fighter pilot but the uniform stayed the same. So when it came time to decide on what to do with my life I applied for a scholarship from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC). Oh what a miserable time that was dear friends. Three and a half years wasted. I lost more brain cells than time. The only part of my life that I really regret are the college/air force years. Don't get me wrong, I made lots of friends and learned a few of life's hard lessons but I feel that was a un-needed detour.

After a rather nasty episode, that I've left out of this for reasons that are my own, I left the AFROTC. On the same day, still in Air Force uniform, I signed up with the Army. My conversation with the recruiter went something like this:

"Hi, I want to join the Army, how far away from an office can you get me?"

"Uh hi, far away from an office? How about infantry?"

"Sounds good."

"You're Air Force huh? Like air planes?"

"I love 'em."

"Awesome, want to jump out of them?"

"Sure, sounds good."

"Alright, one Airborne Infantry contract coming up. That's a pretty nice bonus you get there."

"Bonus? I get extra money for this?"

And that is how I found myself a teamleader in the 82nd Airborne Infantry with 20 months experiance in Iraq.  But I get ahead of myself. As it was in "Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, this story is about the journey, not the destination.


VFF Guest Authors- Is Victory an Option in November?

Victory: is it an option in November?

By Daniel Bell

 

Now that both the Democratic and Republican parties have chosen their presumptive nominees, Americans must ask, who stands for and will achieve victory in the War on Terror? With a Congress that hinders prompt funding for the war in Iraq, dragging out passing of the 2009 defense budget, the executive branch of our government is even more vital to success in the Middle East. The next president's administration will determine the future course of the War on Terror.

As a "return on success," violence has decreased dramatically since the Surge, and Iraqi government progress is allowing the nation's citizens to take an increasingly greater part in its progress. President Bush often praises such changes in Iraq, but what do most Americans believe? Some now oppose the war, demonstrating disbelief in our military's and the Iraqi people's accomplishments. Yet in forming an opinion on America's best course of action, from troop withdrawal to vehement backing of the war, voters must employ a realistic understanding of the changes in Iraq. Resources such as www.understandingwar.org enable citizens to increase their knowledge and comprehension of the War on Terror.

While even the most avid followers of war news struggle to comprehend the scope of the problems, challenges, and advancements in the Middle East, commanders and troops in Iraq are the staunchest supporters of the War on Terror. As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I can personally attest to our military's accomplishments in the Middle East. By capturing foreign fighters and disrupting their channels of infiltration, we demonstrated that other influences were affecting the victory that Iraq itself is working to achieve. The respectively low losses that we experienced were always met with multiple successes.

Our sacrifices cannot be overlooked for political expediency. A combat veteran's overwhelming sense of patriotism cannot be quelled by small talk of honoring veterans and their service to our country; our patriotism has been tested and played out on the foreign fields of combat. True respect and support for those who defend freedom comes in the form of recognizing when there is success and supporting the mission that so many of us volunteered to fight.

This election year, voters will consider many issues important to their households, including healthcare, immigration, taxes, and energy. Our current economic situation, already impacting many Americans, is perhaps this election's most tangible issue. Yet each voter must also consider our nation's security. Should the United States draw down troop deployment, seemingly saving tax dollars and the lives of service members? Do Americans desire unknown change or continued victory in the War on Terror? Should America continue on in stabilizing a country and building an ally, honoring the sacrifice that has taken place over the past five years?

Based on my experience and knowledge from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as evidence of our progress since, I will vote for the candidate who supports victory in the Global War on Terror this November.