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August 2008

Mother Green and Her......

If you saw Full Metal Jacket, then you know the rest....

God Bless Commandant Conway and the the USMC.

WASHINGTON -- Marines in western Iraq's Anbar province no longer face a serious threat from insurgents and would be better used in increasingly violent regions of southern Afghanistan, the top Marine Corps officer said Wednesday.

At this rate, those Marines may only get to do some mop up...

The Reason To Delay Air Force One...

True story, via Seamus, about President Bush on his way to "Asia" (read Olympics):

The Value of Service
Commentary by Lt. Col. Mark Murphy
354th Maintenance Group deputy commander

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- I learned a big lesson on service Aug. 4, 2008, when Eielson had the rare honor of hosting President Bush on a refueling stop as he traveled to Asia .

It was an event Eielson will never forget -- a hangar full of Airmen and Soldiers getting to see the Commander in Chief up close, and perhaps even shaking his hand. An incredible amount of effort goes into presidential travel because of all of the logistics, security, protocol, etc ... so it was remarkable to see Air Force One land at Eielson on time at precisely 4:30 p.m.--however, when he left less than two hours later, the President was 15 minutes behind schedule.

That's a big slip for something so tightly choreographed, but very few people know why it happened. Here's why.

On Dec. 10, 2006, our son, Shawn, was a paratrooper deployed on the outskirts of Baghdad . He was supposed to spend the night in camp, but when a fellow soldier became ill Shawn volunteered to take his place on a nighttime patrol--in the convoy's most exposed position as turret gunner in the lead Humvee. He was killed instantly with two other soldiers when an IED ripped through their vehicle.

I was thinking about that as my family and I sat in the audience listening to the President's speech, looking at the turret on the up-armored Humvee the explosive ordnance disposal flight had put at the edge of the stage as a static display.

When the speech was over and the President was working the crowd line, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a White House staff member. She asked me and my wife to come with her, because the President wanted to meet us.

Stunned, we grabbed our two sons that were with us and followed her back into a conference room. It was a shock to go from a crowded, noisy hangar, past all of those security people, to find ourselves suddenly alone in a quiet room.

The only thing we could hear was a cell phone vibrating, and noticed that it was coming from the jacket Senator Stevens left on a chair. We didn't answer.

A short time later, the Secret Service opened the door and President Bush walked in. I thought we might get to shake his hand as he went through. But instead, he walked up to my wife with his arms wide, pulled her in for a hug and a kiss, and said, "I wish I could heal the hole in your heart." He then grabbed me for a hug, as well as each of our sons. Then he turned and said, "Everybody out."

A few seconds later, the four of us were completely alone behind closed doors with the President of the United States and not a Secret Service agent in sight.

He said, "Come on, let's sit down and talk." He pulled up a chair at the side of the room, and we sat down next to him. He looked a little tired from his trip, and he noticed that his shoes were scuffed up from leaning over concrete barriers to shake hands and pose for photos. He slumped down the chair, completely relaxed, smiled, and suddenly was no longer the President - he was just a guy with a job, sitting around talking with us like a family member at a barbeque.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes, he talked with us about our son, Iraq , his family, faith, convictions, and shared his feelings about nearing the end of his presidency. He asked each of our teenaged sons what they wanted to do in life and counseled them to set goals, stick to their convictions, and not worry about being the "cool" guy.

He said that he'd taken a lot of heat during his tenure and was under a lot of pressure to do what's politically expedient, but was proud to say that he never sold his soul. Sometimes he laughed, and at others he teared up. He said that what he'll miss most after leaving office will be his role as Commander in Chief.

One of the somber moments was when he thanked us for the opportunity to meet, because he feels a heavy responsibility knowing that our son died because of a decision he made. He was incredibly humble, full of warmth, and completely without pretense. We were seeing the man his family sees.

We couldn't believe how long he was talking to us, but he seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever. In the end, he thanked us again for the visit and for the opportunity to get off his feet for a few minutes. He then said, "Let's get some pictures." The doors flew open, Secret Service and the White House photographer came in, and suddenly he was the President again. We posed for individual pictures as he gave each of us one of his coins, and then he posed for family pictures. A few more thank yous, a few more hugs, and he was gone.

The remarkable thing about the whole event was that he didn't have to see us at all. If he wanted to do more, he could've just given a quick handshake and said, "Thanks for your sacrifice." But he didn't - he put everything and everyone in his life on hold to meet privately with the family of a Private First Class who gave his life in the service of his country.

What an incredible lesson on service. If the President of the United States is willing to drop everything on his plate to visit with a family, surely the rest of us can do it. No one is above serving another person, and no one is so lofty that he or she can't treat others with dignity and respect.

We often think of service in terms of sacrificing ourselves for someone in a position above us, but how often do we remember that serving someone below us can be much more important? If you're in a leadership capacity, take a good look at how you're treating your people, and remember that your role involves serving the people you rely on every day.

Spc. Shawn Murphy, 24, of Fort Bragg, N.C., was killed by a roadside bomb Dec. 10 in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson.

Godspeed, Shawn.

More about Shawn Murphy after the Jump.


Continue reading "The Reason To Delay Air Force One..." »

Judicial Waterboarding of Our Marines - UPDATE SGT Nazario Acquitted!

RE:  Marine Jailed Over Memorial Day Weekend for Exercising 5th Amendment (May 28, 2008)
RE:  Update - Marine Jailed for Exercising 5th Amendment (June 17, 2008)
RE:  Marine Jailed For Refusing to Testify Against Squad Leader (June 25, 2008)
RE:  UPDATE - The Judicial Waterboarding of our Marines (July 2, 2008)

Just got word from GI W. that former Marine Sergeant Jose Nazario has been acquitted by the jury in Riverside California.

Now, we can focus on Weemer and Nelson...

Update:  Related is this post by Herschel Smith of Captain's Journal about a Marine being tried for war crimes by a jury of civilians.

IVAW at the DNC

I think this video is going to make some of you out there reach for either your blood pressure medication or a bat.  I suggest that you put away anything destructive before viewing it.  Let me know what you think about the money quote at the very end.

I continue to be amazed by these guys at the IVAW, and the fact that the guy featured in the video is wearing an MP Brassard sent me into a dimension of pissed off that God has not seen on Earth since the time of Moses.  That dude better never show up in the same square mile that I am in, cuz Deebow's got sumpin' for him.

But on the less pissed off side, I want to know what it was in their training or their upbringing that made them think war was neat and clean?  Did these vets think that you were going to get the college money without having to do something dangerous?  When they gave you that gun did you expect to not have to use it?  Sure, I am certain some civilians who didn't deserve it got guns pointed at them and I am certain that some of them felt afraid.

And when you engage in a COIN missions and fight the enemy this way, these things will happen.  Maybe we should ask those same civilians that this guy is talking about that he is portraying as abused and violated by US Soldiers how they feel about AQI packing up and leaving their country, for Afghanistan, parts unknown or for their 72 virgins.  Wonder how they feel about that?

Maybe I am way off on this, but I am not quite convinced of the "street cred" that some of these IVAW guys have.  Were they Fobbits?  Did they ever really go out and complete dangerous missions or is this all part of some misguided Walter Mitty-Scotty Beauchamp episode in their life?  I just refuse to believe the things these guys say when I see the stories and pictures from guys like Michael Yon and our embeds from B5. 

I am quite certain though that when this shell of a man described their little soliloquy as "street theater" that he was absolutely correct, with great emphasis on the "theater" part.

Gori, Georgia Damage Assessment

And we're right there...


U.S. Army Lt. Col. Otto Fiala, left, Georgian government officials and local residents gather information on the situation in Gori, Georgia, Aug. 25, 2008. The team is assessing the damage, relief efforts and return of displaced persons as part of the larger U.S. response to Georgia’s request for humanitarian assistance. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jim Hoeft.

BUDS Class 268


U.S. Navy SEAL qualification training students from Class 268 take aim during a 36-round shooting test ranging from 100, 200 and 300 yards on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 14, 2008. SEAL candidates must complete the six-month training before being assigned to a SEAL team.    U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica.

A Moment of Thanks

Moment of Thanks is designed to showcase messages of appreciation and support for military personnel.  Viewers can post thank you messages in video, photos or text.  Our goal is to deliver 100,000 messages for the troops.

At Moment of Thanks, you can see Americans showing their support like Aviella above.  And, you might see some surprises, too, from retired NYPD dectives:

To professional athletes and Hollywood.

It is simply a patriotic way to show your support of our troops. 


Leave a message for the troops by midnight ET on August 31st, and have a chance to win one of three Kodak V803 cameras. Just upload at least one video or photo, or write a text message to be eligible.  Go to Moment of Thanks now to see some amazing Thank You's and, more importantly, to upload your own video of thanks.

A Soldier, a Poet

Meet SPC Danielle Wheeler (still a private in the photos, but I assume the article is correct about her current rank).  She is with the 4/3 BCT in Iraq.  We talked to her commanding officer, COL Tom James, and found that 4/3 is enjoying impressive progress.  SPC Wheeler is one of the soldiers making that happen.

She's also a poet, who writes honestly about the difficulty of being a female soldier at war. 

Not a Tear

That’s not a tear; I’m not starting to cry.
I just got a bit of dust in my eye.
No, my eyes aren’t red and they’re not watery.
Maybe you shouldn’t try to calm me so softly.
It wasn’t tears that made your shoulder wet.
It’s getting really hot; that water is sweat.
My nose isn’t running. I’m not trembling.
That’s not why I’m shaking and sniffling.
OK, maybe I’m a little unhappy.
I just feel guilty when I look at you sadly.
I try telling myself I’m as tough as a guy.
That’s why I hate to be seen when I cry.
If you want to do something, just hold me close.
Wrap me up tight and don’t let me go.
No, I won’t get attached while we’re rocking in place.
I’m not melting at your touch, I just feel really safe.
I’m not falling in love wrapped up in your arms,
While I’m falling asleep to the beat of your heart.
Feel a little vulnerable now that you’ve seen me cry.
But at the same time, I know it’s all right.

There is more at the link, including an ode to Iraqi women.  Many is the American who would profit from understanding what she is trying to say about their conditions, and our hopes of raising them up to something better than they have ever known.  (See also the recent VFF guest post by Kate Norley.)

Blackwater - Innovators, Entrepeneurs, and Kick-Ass Operators

Updated 08-27-08 2230 ST: Added some good insight from Grim ("the smartest man in the room™") and Marc Danziger after the Jump.

The Blackwater Worldwide trip had been in the works for awhile.  We didn't have a good confirm on the exact format or date until the week of the trip.  And, I had just had surgery and had a tumor removed 2.5 weeks before with a nice 2 inch incision to care for (I'm fine, btw, no need to email or comment) and wasn't sure I should be running around ranges or doing hot laps in a police interceptor.  But, after some thought, sometimes you just gotta say (come on, say it with me), "WTF!"

So, I got Uncle Jimbo on our flight manifest at the last minute thanks to Bryan O'Leary who is a lobbyist for Blackwater.  Bryan flew F-18's with a pal of my family.  Good man who originally hails from Senator Coburn's office (the original Pork Buster).

We also met Anne Tyrrell who is Blackwater's Director of PR.  Talk about a tough job...I think Anne really enjoys her job (I know I would).  I have written articles (and ghost written a few) about private security firms.  Several good friends of mine used the lowering wages of contractors in Iraq as an economic indicator of how things were going there (ie. getting safer).  And, I also know more than a few contractors who have worked for Blackwater.

As commenter TheNewGuy stated, the training facility is "the cat's ass."

He's right.


Our pilot and Bryan up front.  You can see Jimbo's and my legs stretched out in sleep position.  Note: Jimbo drools...not pretty.  All photos by Rob Neppell unless otherwise noted.

The trip began with a flight from DC to Blackwater's 7,000 acre facility in Moyock, NC (As trained Airborne professionals, Jim and I fell asleep within minutes upon taking our seats in the Cessna).  Moyock is within a 2 hour radius of some of the largest Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, FBI, etc. bases and is the largest private training facility in the US.  This was purely intentional.  More than ten years ago, the intent was to compete with regional fire arms ranges for law enforcement (LE) and private training (corporate security etc.) with the eventual goal of garnering some military contracts.  In order to do better than the regionals, Blackwater needed to have access to the population requiring training.  Being close reduced costs of the trainees and made face-to-face visits cheaper and easier for the two negotiating parties.

Erik Prince founded Blackwater along with several others, including the President (and former US Navy SEAL), Gary Jackson.  Gary met us at Blackwater HQ and spent the next several hours with us, giving an unofficial history lesson on Blackwater, and even driving our vehicle on the tour.

In our nation's history, military strength is not a priority until we've been attacked.  The turning point in contracting occurred in 2000 when the USS Cole was bombed.  The US Navy did not have the facilities or the personnel to immediately begin security training.  They turned to Blackwater who had their training program up and running in less than month.

This would become one of Blackwater's hallmarks - extremely agile and fast turn around on contracts and then execute the highest level of professional training.

Why didn't the military ramp up training quickly?

Anyone who served (like I did) in 2000 knows that manpower was reduced, equipment was reduced, training facilities were reduced AND the military was hardly agile.

Rob Neppell who was along on the trip, and a civilian, writes about the why:

...Blackwater has molded itself as everything the military isn't --- and perhaps can't be: organizationally agile, quick to try new approaches, able to go from thought to vision to design to product in the time it would take the service branches (or traditional military contractors) to form a study group to develop the commmittee that would make a recommendation on whether or not to study the feasibility of that original thought...

Started with a few contracts to train Navy boarding parties, the folks at Blackwater became innovators.  Side note:  If you get one thing out of my visit to their company, it should be that they are consummate professionals.  I was expecting professionalism but was surprised at the extreme high level of expertise and concern.  The second thing you should understand from my trip is that they are innovators.  They are innovators unfettered by the mind-numbing reams of regulations that stifles military innovation outside of SOCOM.

After all we've been through over the last eight years, our military is still not agile.  For example, we have been contracting Russian aircraft in the 'stan to drop food and water to our troops because there is not enough capacity in the USAF to do the job.

Guess who wants in on some of that action?

Continue reading "Blackwater - Innovators, Entrepeneurs, and Kick-Ass Operators" »

Real Pravda About Russia in Georgia, Part II

This is part two of Mzia's guest post on her experiences, and her family's experiences, with Russia in Georgia. Please read this, then go back and re-read Michael Totten's piece again. My thanks to Mzia, her husband, and her family for this.

I am grateful to share my experiences with you. I am also grateful to discuss the history and the present humanitarian crisis in Georgia.

The Georgians, Ossetians, and Abkhazians have lived in relative peace thousands of years, since before King David the Builder. The bad times have come in recent years when Russian agitators have manipulated regional politics to keep us divided. It is hard to find history books with these truths because the Russians banned and destroyed them. Georgian texts, art, and culture were their targets. It is a miracle that some texts survived. They prove the Russian history books wrong. The friendship of our peoples is such that our King Bagrat III, who united Georgia in the 10th century, is buried in the Bedia Monastery in Abkhazia.

Continue reading "Real Pravda About Russia in Georgia, Part II" »