August 5, 2010

From the Front: 08/05/2010 - Dispatches

Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Mud - My brain is so muddled. I guess this is the infamous widow brain. I feel like it will be the death of my memory. I forget things. All. The. Time. I forget to respond to emails (I just found some important ones from June... oops), I forget to return messages, I forget where I'm going. Much of the time, it's like I can't concentrate or focus. I have to really buckle myself down to do my school work and I often read the prompts 4 million times before doing it because I can't remember what I'm supposed to be looking for when I start reading (definitely not typical of me from when I was in undergrad). A few months ago, I was heading to a friend's house. This is a house I spent nearly every day at, literally. Probably a good 5 out of 7 days were there (and probably 4 of those I spent the night), so I should have known where I was going. I made it on base, turned into her neighborhood and then completely blanked out. I had no idea where I was going. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily brief: explosion kills top Pakistani police official - A suicide bomber on foot killed the chief of Pakistan's Frontier Constabulary, Sifwat Ghayur, as his car waited in traffic in Peshawar. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took credit for the blast, which also killed two of Ghayur's bodyguards and a bystander. Ghayur was known as a brave and honest officer, and the Frontier Constabulary, a 25,000-strong paramilitary organization drawn mostly from natives of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, often sees battle against militant forces. The Associated Press looks at the Pakistani army school in the Swat Valley where young men recruited by the Taliban, some as young as 12, receive a religious and secular education, vocational training, and psychological assistance to overcome their sometimes violent pasts. At least 1.1 million acres of farmland in Pakistan's Punjab region have been destroyed by raging flood waters, as the World Food Program warned that up to 2 million people may need immediate food aid to avoid starvation. (READ MORE)

Kandahar Diary: Random Thought #505 - The dust in the air made sunset tonight a spectacular affair. The sky, streaked with long tendrils of cloud, was lit blood-red by the setting sun which, itself, dropped like a glowing coal behind a row of dunes. As I sat smoking (in my usual spot) and reflecting on the day, the muezzin in my guard compound tapped his microphone twice, cleared his throat, then broke into the Adhan in a clear and sonorous voice. Fat little sparrows bounced and chirped on the razor wire and two Mirage 2000D of l’Armee de l’Air roared overhead and banked to the north to line up for their finals into KAF. It made me think. My boy can’t decide right now between being a chef (don’t do it son: slavery and bastardisation in the kitchen for no life and minimum wage) or a paratrooper like his old dad. Watching those Mirages I thought “Now there’s a way to go to war.” Son, work hard at your maths and physics and you can do that. Couple of missions a day then back to the Mess in time for tea and medals. (READ MORE)

Mrs. G.I. Joe: What team are you on? - Mrs. Muffins is on deck for today with a very candid look at branch superiority. She's a Marine wife...yet somehow we get along pretty well! Haha - Everyone knows that soldiers Aren’t Really Marines Yet, that Airmen belong in the Chair Force, and as for the Navy, well, Marines are a Department of the Navy… the Men’s Department. Oh yeah, Coast Guard, who’s that? I am kidding. I got your attention though, right? Oh, and for the record, any stereotypes about Marines, they are true… Trust me, I know. I married one! I swear, every time my husband spends any amount of time with other Marines, he comes back a little dumber. Jokes amongst the branches is nothing new. I would bet you could ask any of them and they would have a joke for another branch. Even within branches, different MOS’s have things to say about the rest of them… It’s a healthy competition and when it comes down to it, no service member would risk the life of another one over some branch pride. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Whose in this with me? - Who else is dealing with deployment right now? I'd like to make sure I am reading your blog, so please leave a comment with a link! While you are at it, why don't you give me your best deployment tip, I could use a few new ones. Thanks! (READ MORE)

CI-Roller Dude: Search and???? - From the Soldier side: Today I’d like to talk some more about the Useless Deployment Training we had before going to Bosnia. It may sound like I’m just bitchin’, which is every soldiers right, (but doesn’t mean the leaders listen), but some of that training was so off the wall and stupid, that it was totally amazing. Now, keep in mind at the time I was going through this training in 2003, I’d been a civilian cop for over 20 years. There are overlaps in some military and police training, and some things that are done totally different. Basic things like how to shoot a firearm are the same…and I even use the same training in both jobs when I’m training others. I think the reason I bitched so much about some of this UDT, was because I’ve taught others for so long, that I hate to see crap that’s not only useless, but would get a soldier killed if they actually did things the way they were trained. Wrong! (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 05 AUG 2010 "Airborne Mac" - FOB life is a strange mixture of hardship and comfort. You live in tents, but you generally have electricity, heating and cooling (most of the time). You have showers with hot water (most of the time.. and you might have to walk a few hundred meters to get to them). You have toilets that flush (but sometimes the port-a-potties are actually cleaner and smell less). You have hot food (but you still lose about 20 pounds). And... most importantly. You have Internet access for your computer (but its nothing to brag about.. dial up speeds and many times the satellite connection is down). This is FOB life at Shank. It was significantly different and more austere earlier in the war. And it can be significantly different at other FOBs (others have it better, and others have it worse). But... there you have it. A crazy mix of ease and hardship. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Families Take Center Stage at Guard Workshop - Families have been the focus this week at the 2010 National Guard Volunteer Workshop in New Orleans. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was at the workshop Monday, and spoke about the challenges facing military families. I highlighted the thoughts he shared on those issues in my blog, “Mullen Addresses Military Family Challenges.” I wanted to share what other leaders had to say at the workshop as well. Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. “Bud” Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, said the Guard’s family readiness groups need to receive the same support as National Guard members deploying overseas. “If we allow these rotations and what we do to become common, accepted and routine, then we need to give the families the focus that we should and that they deserve,” Wyatt said in an interview with Army Sgt. Darron Salzer that was published in the article, “Guard Leaders Urge Family Readiness Support.” (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Getting After It - One of the Chim Chim’s dropped in for a visit last month. He was on some sort of training inspection type team which I didn’t ask too much about and told us that every-time he asked officers from the unit he was looking at what they were doing the reply was “getting after it.” They were supposed to be training Afghan security forces but had no training schedule or program of instruction – instead they were getting after it doing daily presence patrols and stopping every now and then to talk with the people and be friendly. Then returning to the FOB for the night. General Petraeus is getting ready to release a revision of the rules of engagement and early reports say he has included “you can’t commute to the battle” guidance just as he did in Iraq. But by organization, equipment, and deployment that is all we can do in the east. It’s not going to work especially when the bad guys aren’t commuting to fight – they’re here, right now and exerting more influence then we have ever seen. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Is Desire Enough? - One of the advantages in coming to the military later in life, is having the practical experience of being witness to a different but also large system operate under the constant threat of failure. In my case, it was seeing our health care institutions implode. Health care, like the military, has shining moments of excellence undertaken by persons of integrity and character. Yet, desire alone is not enough to overtake goals that seem to be at odds with one another. Posts like Tim's Getting After It, Ann Marlowe's Peace Later, and Ann Jones' acerbic Here be dragons offer first hand observations about the direction the war in Afghanistan is going. I think it's normal for anyone to ask a few questions especially when we have something ...someone at stake. We've all read COIN in its many forms, whether straight from the horse's mouth or distilled by others with first hand experience. We're coupling this with having to watch loved ones deploy, along with friends. (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Nation Building? - The other day, in a post titled Taliban Justice, I noted a Time Magazine story with a rather disturbing cover photo. The story was basically a human-interest piece about the fate of an Afghan girl named Aisha who had been horribly mutilated by the Taliban for fleeing an abusive, arranged marriage. One commenter (known only as "b") wrote: The girl was mutilated a year ago. At that time there were some 100,000 NATO troops in country plus lots of contractors. So if a 100,000 troops can't prevent such, what are they doing there? And how would that change with 200,000 troops? Just asking ... A fair question, but here's the thing: no matter how many troops we have here, Western forces cannot ever put a stop to this sort of thing. The marginalization, diminution and sometimes abuse of women is part and parcel of Afghan culture. Western military force will never put an end to that. Only Afghans can end that, if they so choose. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban suicide bomber strikes Afghan police in Kunduz - The Taliban took credit for a suicide attack that killed seven Afghan policemen in the northern province of Kunduz. The policemen were killed after a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a convoy in the contested district of Imam Sahib. "In this attack, seven policemen were martyred, six police and five civilians were wounded," according to an Afghan Interior Ministry statement. In a statement released on the Taliban propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, the group claimed it "conducted a martyr attack" and killed "more than 10 invaders and puppets." But the International Security Assistance Force has not reported any if its soldiers killed or wounded in Kunduz. Today's suicide attack is the latest in the Afghan north, where the Taliban have been seeking to destabilize the region and interdict ISAF convoys moving from newly established supply lines from Tajikistan. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: The end of summer - I can't believe it's August already. Where did summer go? However, August is a busy month with the end of summer fun. First of all, in my family, we have a TON of August birthdays. My mom's, mine, my dad's, my sister-in-law, and 2 nieces (one of which has the same birthday as me). Then, there's all kinds of celebrations going on such as Festivals, carnivals, 5K and 10K races, etc. DH and I just returned from a short trip back home to PA for my 10 year high school reunion. In addition to that, we also celebrated my mom and dad's birthdays while we were there. Aside from the road construction traffic, it was a nice and uneventful trip. DH had just returned from his Annual Training less than a week before we went on our little excursion and it was SOOOOOOOOOOOO nice to be stuck with him in a car for a 9 hour car ride. Harry, our Blue Heeler doggie, wasn't happy that we had to leave him at the Kennell - although he played with other doggies all day while he was there. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Keep on Trucking - Knowing Archer, he's not counting sheep when he racks out for sleep these days--he's counting trucks. Archer has been living a logistician's dream this week: There's been a constant convoy of civilian semi-trailer trucks loading up our Army equipment for the move to Mississippi. "A lot of people in the country don't even know there's a war on," Archer says, "but the American Trucker does." Iowans know, too. Our highways have been thick with commercial buses packed with troops, and semi-trailers pregnant with Humvees and Hemmets. The Red Bull is on the move again. The load-out is a family affair, with an Alabama mom-and-pop team directing traffic and driving vehicles off the loading ramps. One of the employees looks to be barely driving age, but is fearless driving a wide Humvee onto a semi-trailer. "I've never been this far away from Alabama before," he says. "Can you find arrowheads around here?" (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: On Giving Up - Last year, I endorsed the idea of withdrawing from indefensible areas within Afghanistan: "However, in a world without infinite resources (ahem), we realistically must decide which places to abandon and which to focus on. In that sense, abandoning Nuristan makes a lot of sense. Much of the U.S.’s activity in that area has been misplaced and poorly focused. The retaking of Bargimatal several months ago didn’t make much sense—the area holds no real strategic value, we just did it for pride." And indeed it does not, though it is interesting to see how, even post-American withdrawal, the insurgents can’t seem to do much more than hold remote districts for a while before the government chases them away—at horrifying cost to the locals, of course, but the U.S. was not able to seriously affect the balance of power through its presence. Going a bit further south, into Kunar, it is trickier. David Axe reported earlier this year that the soldiers working in Kunar have had a hard time making any progress against the insurgency, for a variety of reasons. (READ MORE)

Joan D'Arc: An Angel Among Us - One thing I love about being a military spouse is the opportunity to PCS/travel and meet so many different people. Every now and then I have the honor and privilege of meeting someone who is absolutely amazing. I've met politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities. But you're about to meet someone who is truly an inspiration, and heads above any "famous" person I've ever met. Today at The White House, President Obama awarded the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal to MaryAnn Phillips. The award is the second highest award a civilian can receive! And if you think this post has nothing to do with milspouses, you couldn't be more wrong. Chances are good that if your spouse has been wounded and routed through Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, MaryAnn has taken care of him for you. And if, God forbid, your spouse is ever wounded and routed through Landstuhl, you can bet that MaryAnn will be your best line of communication. She will be there for your family when you really, really need someone. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Healing hands - Even though it's been six years since Maj. Ed Pulido drove over an improvised explosive device in Iraq, it feels like yesterday. "I've had dreams about it all the time," Pulido said. "The night sweats and terrors -- it was that moment right there when I put the air bag aside and saw the blood." A powerful article by Elaine Wilson chronicles Maj. Pulido's difficult ordeal, including the emotional decision to amputate his leg, which had been shattered and burned by a terrorist's roadside bomb. While the retired soldier will never forget the infections, multiple surgeries, or depression that followed his injury, something his mother, wife and young daughter did in the hospital will always stand out. "I was in my deathbed, and they were taking time to visit other service members and families," he said. "My little girl still has that gift of giving." Instead of giving up, Pulido began sharing his story with other wounded troops and became active with The Folds Of Honor Foundation. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: The Problem With Military Writing on Afghanistan - …is that it is not very good. And at times it is quite bad. Now please hold your indignation – if that applies to you – until the end of this blog entry. This is hopefully heading somewhere constructive. What I’m about to say applies – with varying degrees of severity – to both official and independent military journals, military theses, as well as to reports written elsewhere by members of the military. Why do I feel justified in saying this? Well, aside from whatever ‘Afghanistan’ qualifications you may wish to assign/concede to me as a PhD student who specializes in the region and who semi-professionally fixes/grades essays, there is the large amount of work I do related to the Afghanistan bibliography that I compile. And yes, up until the beginning of this year I did read the majority of the articles and books in the bibliography (admittedly not so much the technical agriculture reports). (READ MORE)

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