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October 2011

Iraq Pullout - Not A Cause for Celebration

Kudos to Max Boot for this well written editorial panning the President's decision to withdraw pell mell from Iraq.  I quote the opening paragraphs:

If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Keep that history in mind as you listen to President Obama boast: “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Far from being cause for celebration, Obama’s announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year–down from nearly 50,000 today–represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.

Read it all here:


I must have been absent in strategy class the day they taught that you can declare a war over unilaterally.  Of course, the President didn't declare "victory" or "mission accomplished".  I guess, as long as a campaign promise is met, then due diligence is achieved.

But the rationale is not even adversary-based.  It is ostensibly because DOD and State Lawyers cannot work out an appropriate Status of Forces agreement such that US Troops would not be subject to the arbitrary whim of Iraqi law (even if taking an action deemed to be "in the line of duty" by US law/standards).

I've heard of "lawfare" as a check against offensive action out of fear of risk or possible bad press.  But an inabilty to convincinly negotiate as a rationale for major troop reduction?

As Max point out in piece: "The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations."

Will the President at least allow our returning forces the honor to walk up 5th Ave in NYC in a victory parade?

Marching in Memory of Fallen AFSOC Warriors - Part 2

RE: Marching in Memory of Fallen AFSOC Warriors

Afsoc 111017-F-PV498-061Special tactics Airmen march through Flatonia, Texas, Oct. 17, 2011, during the Tim Davis Memorial. The march consists of six three-man teams and will span across five states before ending at the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 26, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sharida Jackson)

Small sacrifice in honor of the ultimate sacrifice
by Maj. Kristi Beckman
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

10/18/2011 - Columbus, Texas -- Editor's Note: The team will be returning Oct. 26. We encourage you to come out and join them for the last five miles starting in Wynnhaven Beach. Buses will be in front of Special Tactics Training Squadron from 11:15 a.m. to noon to shuttle people to Wynnhaven Beach. The departure from Wynnhaven Beach is scheduled for 1 p.m.

A team of 18 special tactics have one objective in mind: honor the fallen.

The team began an 812-mile march from Medina Annex, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas to Hurlburt Field, Fla., to commemorate 17 fallen comrades.

As they marched out at 5 a.m. in the darkness, carrying 50-pound rucksacks and a baton with a fallen Airman's name, the only sound heard was the footsteps of the marchers, and it was almost as if the seventeen fallen were marching with them.

Major Travis Woodworth, Special Tactics Training Squadron commander, said the meaning of the memorial march is not one of these men's deaths is in vain.

"Every day I walk into the squadron and see their faces on our memorial wall," Woodworth said. "This march will ensure new operators and young Airmen don't ever forget the cost of freedom."

In 2009, Master Sgt. Ken Huhman and Capt. Sam Schindler, who were both with the 342nd Training Squadron at Medina Annex, founded the Tim Davis Memorial March as a way to remember the fallen ST Airmen and honor their families.

So far, the march has taken place every year although it is not an annual event. It only goes on if a special tactics Airman dies in combat.

The timeline extends one year from October. The 2011 march planning began after three ST Airmen lost their lives Aug. 6 in the CH-47 crash in Afghanistan.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Steven Haggett and Capt. Daniel Breiding, STTS student, organized the 2011 march. It originated at Medina Annex, where pipeline training begins for ST Airmen. It concludes at Hurlburt Field, Fla., where ST Airmen complete their training with Air Force Special Operations Command.

Haggett and Breiding said they hope the march will educate the public about Air Force specialties like combat control and pararescue, which have very unique missions.

One of those combat controllers participating in the march is Senior Airman John Hansard from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

He said he feels the march is a very worthwhile way to remember the fallen and represent the 22nd STS, which has members with very close ties to the fallen.

"I knew Mark Forester and Danny Sanchez, but one of my friends at the squadron was best friends with Forester," Hansard said. "He is deployed and asked me to march in his place to honor Forester."

Hansard did not know what to expect along the way but said he was surprised when they marched through a local town and about 25 people were standing on the side of the road cheering them on and waving American flags. He said a Vietnam veteran came out to shake their hands.

"I hope everyone not only keeps in mind the 17 men we are honoring but also remembers our comrades overseas doing their job," Hansard said. "We've been at war for 10 years now, and people tend to forget our daily sacrifices."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the team marched approximately 160 miles, traveling through Texas towns such as Seguin, Luling, Flatonia, Schulenburg, Weimer, Columbus and Sealy. Despite the blisters, sunburns and aches, they are determined to keep going.
Woodworth said when the men start feeling pain they remember the guys they lost suffered so much more. There is no room to complain.

"The physical pain the men go through on this march doesn't hold a candle to the emotional pain of the kids who lost their dads; of the families who continue to mourn for their loved one."

Senior Airman Tyler Knaub, pararescueman from the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., said the march has turned out to be much bigger than he expected.
"It is extremely motivating, and I'm fortunate to be a part of it," Knaub said. "In San Antonio there were groups of bicycle riders who knew who we were and yelled, 'hooyah, pjs!'

He said despite their pain and exhaustion, they stood up straighter and could not help but smile when people high-fived or thanked them.

"The motivation from our peoples' pride fueled us that extra limit," he said. "My best experience, hands down, was when a little girl of about seven or eight years old hung out the window of her parents' vehicle and waved to us, yelling 'thank you!'"

The march resonates with Chief Master Sgt. Tony Negron, who used to be with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron out of Pope Field, N.C. and is now the PJ functional manager at Air Combat Command.

The loss is personal to him. Negron knew many of the fallen ST Airmen including Staff Sgt. Scott Sather and Senior Airman Jason Cunningham.

When Negron was the operations superintendent at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., the curator of the Enlisted Heritage Hall at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., asked him to create an exhibit in honor of Cunningham. Cunningham was stationed at Moody Air Force Base when he was killed.

"Because of that, I got to know the family very well, and I called Cunningham's mother before this year's march started to ask her if I could carry his baton," Negron said. "To me, this march is about looking out for the families of the fallen. This means so much to them that we never forget the sacrifice their sons made."

Oftentimes, the people who have to pick up the ST fallen are their own comrades. Negron talked about the numerous times he had to pick up his brothers and sighed when he recalled talking with Sather before he went out on a mission and then two hours later having to treat him.

Negron said the marchers are here to remember and to let the mothers, fathers, wives and children know we have not forgotten what their loved one did for the Air Force, the U.S. military and our country.

"Special Tactics Airmen risk their lives every day on the battlefield to save others," Breiding said. "These 17 fallen paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and this march is just one way to show these men and their families they are never forgotten."

Route map is posted after the jump.

Continue reading "Marching in Memory of Fallen AFSOC Warriors - Part 2" »

US Chamber of Commerce launches program to hire vets

Good stuff from the US Chamber of Commerce.  Written by Sean Hackbarth there, I’m just going to repost the whole thing:

Marine Corporal Megan Morse served in Iraq, was injured, and returned home looking for work. She is one of more than 2,600 veterans and military spouses who have found jobs through the Chamber's Hiring Our Heroes initiative.

This Saturday, Kevin Schmiegel, the Chamber's vice president of Veterans Affairs and a 20-year Marine veteran, is bringing a Hiring Our Heroes jobs fair to his hometown of Toms River, NJ. He talked to the Asbury Park Press:

Veterans make “perfect employees,” Schmiegel said. With leadership qualities, they are well-qualified with advanced technical skills.

“They are reliable,” he said. “They are problem solvers.”

Returning soldiers can easily take jobs in the private sectors as machinists and mechanics. Veterans, who can gravitate towards challenging jobs, can handle work in the energy and railroad sectors as well.

“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines to teach them technical skills,” Schmiegel said. “There are veterans that have skillsets that are directly transferable and we need to make employers aware of that.”

As this story from Free Enterprise magazine shows, a challenge is getting veterans and employers on the same page about what valuable skills veterans have:

When Navy Captain Steve Vincent brought a group of corporate leaders aboard the U.S.S. Alabama to help them better understand how the crew’s skills could translate to the civilian workplace, he did not expect to find the perfect example sitting quietly off to the side.

Sitting beside a stack of papers punching away on his calculator, a chief petty officer was working out the food load for the next patrol. Vincent turned to his corporate delegation and asked, “Do any of you value inventory management and logistics planning?”

The answer was a resounding yes. But Vincent said that if you asked the chief petty officer his role, he would say “cook.” According to Vincent, “Military people tend to articulate their skill set in terms of their job title. However, they can do all kinds of other things. So that petty officer? He’s a logistician.”

The fair is part of the Chamber's 100 city nationwide tour to promote the hiring of veterans and their spouses. Make sure you're following Hiring our Heroes on Facebook.


If you’re a vet and you’re job hunting this may be a good program to try to hook up with. 

Celebrations in Libya

Courtesy of the NATO Channel, here is some B-roll showing Libyans celebrating after the news that their former leader Muammar Qadhafi, had been killed in Sirte. :

But personally I love this ridiculous cover of the NYPost as the editors outdo themselves yet again in the area of stretching a headline:


A Man and His Dog


U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Martin Ratkowski, Combined Team Zabul K-9 handler, and his K-9, Tosca, secure an area during a patrol to a local village in the district of Mizan, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2011. Ratkowski attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul to provide a home-made explosives search with his K-9. PRT Zabul's mission is to conduct civil-military operations in Zabul province to extend the reach and legitimacy of the Government of Afghanistan. Ratkowski is deployed from the 9th Security Forces Squadron at Beale Air Force Base and is originally from Buffalo, N.Y. Photo by Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

A Fearsome Age

For decades the Arab world was stable, unchanging, held so by tyrants who were the masters of their people.  Today Libya's Gadhafi is dead.  Iraq's Saddam is hanged.  Egypt's Mubarak is standing trial for his life on charges of the murder of his people.  

Osama bin Laden is dead.  Al Qaeda in Iraq, after summoning to its flag the greatest fighters inspired by the call to jihad, was destroyed and discredited by Iraqi tribesmen and the military forces of the American-led Coalition. 

We have suffered the loss of several thousand of our very finest, and we have spent a massive amount of treasure.  It is not clear that our efforts in Afghanistan have any road to success.  Our efforts in Iraq have established a nation that is as free and independent as some of us ever wanted; but it is probably more free and independent than our political leadership really intended.

Iran and North Korea remain unfree; and in the chaos of the age, we cannot know what will come out of North Africa -- or Europe, for that matter.  Much is at stake.

In such times as these there is no surer guard than a good blade in a trained hand, and the brotherhood of the brave.  In that regard at least, we may face this fearsome age with as much tranquility as anyone.

Makeup sales plummet in Libya

Colonel Dragqueen is allegedly dead.

(CBS/AP) Fugitive Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was killed in fighting around his hometown Thursday, a top official in Libya's transitional government said, citing reports from fighters who claimed they saw the body.

Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said he expects the prime minister to confirm the death soon, noting that past reports emerged "before making 100 percent confirmation."

Past reports of Qaddafi deaths or captures have later proven incorrect...

Interestly enough, NATO took out a convoy that was threatening civilians nearby.  We probably got lucky.

Let's hope the new boss is better than the old one.  Or at least uses less rouge.