August 11, 2010

From the Front: 08/11/2010

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

Dispatches:

LT Gorman: Halfway to Halfway - While out at one of the smoking areas at Phoenix the other day, an Aussie Lieutenant asked to bum a cigarette off me. We starting chatting and eventually the conversation turned to how long he’d been in country. He replied that he’d been here three months: “Halfway done, Thank God.” Needless to say, to hear that was a little disheartening. I still have 3 more months just until leave, not even mentioning going home. The US Army remains the only service with minimum year long deployments. All of our coalition partners have 6 month tours unless they have some unusual circumstance. The same goes with the Marines whose 6 month tour is the standard. The odd Navy and Air Force personnel over here might have a yearlong tour, but once again that is not the norm. Curious to see what some of our partner’s policies on tours and R&R were, I took a look at what the British did. Within their normal 6 month tour they are allowed one 2 week leave around the middle of their tour. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: I Guess I'll Write - Even though I feel as if I've got nothing to say. Usually when I start out like this I come up with something so we'll give it a shot... I've been feeling pretty angry lately. Maybe an explanation for my lack of posting I can't articulate anything but anger. Anger at the world, at my husband, at God, at the war, at everyone who's husband came home, at homecoming statuses and photos and posts and all things homecoming related, at the friends who promised they'd be there but have disappeared, at myself, basically just angry. It kind of creeps up on me and I really want to hit something. So lately I've just been kind of sitting. And facebooking, which I should cut down on. Oh, and smoking, which I also should cut down on. Oh addictions... I've been thinking about friends a lot. I know, I know, I harp on this subject. And people warned me. And I even said from the beginning, people would disappear, but once it starts happening... and then continues... well it sucks. (READ MORE)

ACU's, Stiletto Shoes, and Pretty Pink Tutus: I get to live it - [Guest Post] I am not a milspouse. I am a 20-something single girl who is in the process of joining the Navy. Mrs. G.I. Joe asked if I could write about my reasons for joining, but it’s not a question that can be quickly answered. On my own blog I dedicate an entire post to just one reason at a time. This story is more along the lines of how I arrived at the decision to join. I was raised with a rich patriotic tradition. One of my grandfathers is a retired Commander in the Navy, as well as a retired N-JROTC teacher. My other grandfather was drafted into the Army. We grew up wearing red, white & blue to church on patriotic weekends, displaying American flags and treating them with respect, and putting our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. My Navy grandfather has pictures and paintings of his ships, swords, and commendations covering his walls, as well as curious relics he collected from around the world while at sea. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Required viewing for NGOs - Yesterday I saw the terrible news about the 10 Christian aid workers being killed in Nuristan province, of which six of them were Americans. That was a terrible act and I really feel for their families. I figured it was just a matter of time before an Non-Government Organization (NGO) was hit hard on the battlefield. However I was surprised when they said on the news that this group had no weapons or security. In fact even my 17 year old son who is very smart in worldly ways and international affairs but is by no means a Doctor or Surgeon or any other profession that was in that group had an acute observation. After the news said they had no security he looked at me and said “just like that group in Rambo 4″ and then he continued with “you would think that all those aid groups would be made to watch Rambo 4 so they could learn from that movie.” Even though Hollywood movies are exactly that…Hollywood. Every once in a while they put out a good message or have an example that others can follow. (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Qandahar, pt. 3 - Among the more noteworthy aspects of my visit to Fob Lindsey, Camp Atal and Kandahar Air Field: There were no rocket attacks (they knew to back off!), and our Canadian allies remind us that they enjoy putting their stamp on things even more than we do. Canuck creature comforts even surpass the over-fed US Army, in fact. And like a few other stops I've made, it's another Epcot Center in the sprawling airfield, with dozens of nations playing a role. The cynic in me sees the point that others make about much of this participation being that of a 'feel-good' nature...but it adds more than it detracts, in my humble opinion, to interact with Slovak gate guards, Romanian air terminal staff, Dutch colleagues, Aussie hosts, and of course the occasional fellow Devil Dog in my journey. Scenes from (barely) beyond the wire follow. In a way, the ramshackle village which sits outside the gate is simply an Afghan version of a standard American base town... (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily brief: civilian casualties spike in Afghanistan - The U.N. released its semi-annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan today, finding that overall civilian casualties have spiked 31 percent after the first six months of 2010, with fully 76 percent of those casualties caused by the Taliban and only 12 percent caused by coalition forces, a nearly 30 percent drop. 1,271 civilians were killed in the time period and another 1,997 injured. The drop in coalition-caused casualties stems from increased restrictions on airstrikes and the use of heavy weapons while the Taliban are using larger explosives and resorting in much greater numbers to assassinations, including public killings of women and children. Reports differ as to her name and age, but news sources agree that the woman killed by the Taliban yesterday in the northwestern Badghis province for committing adultery was a widow and pregnant when she was flogged nearly 200 times and shot in public. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily brief: German army plans fall Afghan offensive - The German army plans to stage an offensive in October alongside Afghan forces to clear Taliban from villages in northern Afghanistan . Germany has come under criticism for being too passive in fighting the Taliban in their zone of responsibility, and army leaders want in part to dispel the notion that Germans are unwilling to fight the Taliban. The New York Times today has a must-read on the difficulty of engaging in counterinsurgency around the city of Kunduz while U.S. forces try to learn to trust their erstwhile Afghan partners. After last week's U.N. decision to remove individuals and organizations linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda from an international blacklist, Afghanistan's National Security Council has reportedly asked the U.N. to remove more names of Taliban leaders. Two suicide bombers targeted a guest house in Kabul run by the Hart private security firm yesterday, killing two drivers but failing to breach the guest house's protection before detonating their explosives. (READ MORE)

And You Never Did Think: Deployment Numero Dos - When Chris came back in July, he found out the next day that he would be leaving again in August. So I’m husbandless again for the foreseeable future. (And just in time for him to miss our first anniversary! Luckily, we celebrated early in NYC.) I took him to the airport and got to go behind security and hang out with him at the gate. And his flight was overbooked, so he volunteered to be bumped. $300 voucher and a paid for taxi ride to the other airport… heck yeah! (We will definitely be taking that West Coast vacation when he gets back… you Seattle area folk get ready, because we’ve got our eye on you!) At least this time, some of his friends that deployed with him last time are still here, so I’ll have more people to hang out with. One of them offered to come mow my lawn (yes!) and his fiancee is going to be my movie buddy. And my puppy buddy, because they’re getting two puppies this weekend. My work out buddy is back from her honeymoon, so I have that and I’m going to start P90X. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Calling? - We got a note from the FRG the other day, that basically said: 1. We do not have a number for your husband’s in Afghanistan. 2. Quit calling Rear D about stupid crap, they are busy. 3. We do not know when extra pay will kick in, so just wait till September and if it's not there, then we'll go from there. 4. If you are having financial hardships, then contact us and we can point you in the right direction. It's sad that they have to write this note at all. I haven't gotten a phone call from Gunner yet, but with no phone cards, I am not surprised! So my question is.....do you go crazy when you don't hear from them every day? If I hear one more person tell me that they freak the heck out if they don't hear every.single.day., then I might freak the heck out on them. It''s only been a little over a week since he left, and I am still busy unpacking. have parent/teacher conferences today, the girls are at camp, I need a new driver's license, trying to get Junior into preschool, and a laundry list of other things. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Who’s behind the changes to the Army uniform? - Everyone has an opinion about the Army uniform. When we post information about uniform changes on the Army’s social media sites, hundreds of Soldiers and familiy members respond. It’s an important topic of discussion, because ultimately, uniform changes affect all Soldiers. So who makes these decisions? Well, the August 6 issue of the STAND-TO! offers some insight and explains the inner workings of uniform changes. The Army Uniform Board (AUB) is the Army’s only forum to address the changing requirements of Soldiers’ uniforms and accessory items. The Army Uniform Board (AUB) resolves issues, provides and obtains guidance, and makes recommendations to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA). The CSA approves the initiation of concept development and adoption of these items. The Board has held 159 meetings since its inception on February 3, 1949. So what does this mean to you, the average Soldier struggling with your sand-filled Velcro pockets in Iraq and Afghanistan? (READ MORE)

better when we're together: Encouraging news on nursing school - When Scott was in Iraq back in 2008, I was looking at all kinds of nursing school options. We had no idea where we would end up when he got out of the Army, so I mostly just focused my search on the schools in SC. There is a school with a pretty good reputation 30 minutes from our hometown (but they also have a campus in our hometown). When I talked to them in 2008 to see what (if any) pre-requisites I would need to complete before starting the nursing program (for my BSN) they told me something like 6 classes, maybe more. And they were retarded. Like a US history even though I took and passed AP US in high school. Also, college algebra even though I took and made a B in calculus for my first BS. I can’t remember all the other classes, but I remember thinking there were only like 2 that made sense. Needless to say, I was currently drowning in debt from my first degree and wasn’t wiling to pay to take a whole bunch of pointless classes before I could even start nursing classes. (READ MORE)

LTC Scott E. Rutter (USA, Retired): Fighting for ROTC on College Campuses (Part 1) - Having spoken at many college campuses nationwide in the last two years, it often shocks me how many administrations and faculty are ardently against our War on Terror. While their positions are problematic, the underlying issue is the failure to permit the free and dynamic expression of thoughts and speech that is the foundation of this nation. In particular, many campuses have banned or tried to ban ROTC programs. With heads buried in the academic sand, the ability of the armed forces to attract the best and brightest is severely hampered by these actions. Does the administration of these universities think that members of the armed forces should only be obtained from poor communities that lack adequate opportunities? Do they believe that the terrorists will just ‘go away’ if we don’t address this issue? Do they think their universities are impervious to attack by terrorists or other enemies and the lives of their students are not worth protecting? (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Sgt Wrightsman Memorial, Helmand Province, Afghanistan - Sgt Joe Wrightsman reported to Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD Parris Island for basic training on 16 May 2005. After graduating basic training on 12 August 2005, he reported to the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. He graduated with the Military Occupational Specialty of 0311, Rifleman on 21 October 2005. After graduation, he reported to Kilo Company, 3d Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, MCBH Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii for duty. In March 2006, Sgt Wrightsman deployed with Company K, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines to Haditha, Iraq, where he served as a point man for 1st squad in 1st. In July 2007, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Kharma, Iraq, where he served as a leader for his squad. In April 2009, he arrived in Ar Ramadi, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was a squad leader for 1st. In May 2010 he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, as a squad leader for 3rd. He was combat meritoriously promoted to Sgt effective 2 Aug 2010. (READ MORE)

Citizen Soldier: RELAXING - Well it has been almost a week since I got home and it feels great. I spent the last few days just hanging with my family. We went to the movies and just got caught up on everything that I missed. I even went back to the gym this week and now I know that I am out of shape (round is a shape). Things are going great though just relaxing. I do not go back to my job until the 23rd of this month. It is good still getting paid by the military. Today we are having an open house for all my friends and family. My wife has it arranged for people to come by between 3 and 7 today. This way if they are not at church tomorrow or working tomorrow that can stop by and see me and welcome me home. I am getting back into my groove again and now I am looking at the grass and saying that it needs to be cut again. Well I just thank God that I am home and my whole unit came home safe. We had no problems. Well thanks to everyone for your prayers and your support. (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: The Chameleon and the Dragonfly - Anyone who knows me and knows my husband, knows that we have been each other's mainstay for the better part of 11 years now. We have been joined at the hip for all that time and neither one of us saw the need to have much outside of each other. That has now changed. For me at least. After a year of living apart, of me attending Basic Training, AIT and then living in Seoul at my first duty station for 4 months or so before David joining me - we are now having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the changes in each other. Or the lack of them. It is taking some time to get back the easy communication we experienced before. I know I am a different person now. I am not the chameleon that I once was - I do not conform myself to my significant other anymore. I have become my own person. Strong willed (I have always been thus - but now even more so because I know more about myself), optimistic (I was incredibly cynical before), at peace inside (I carried around a lot of anger inside for most of my life)... (READ MORE)

Free Range International: The Good Don’t Always Die Young - The Godfather of Free Range International – the man who pioneered the techniques, tactics and procedures we use to travel in remote districts was executed last week in Badakhshan Province. Dan Terry was a good man. He was humble, self-effacing, and competent. He lived in Afghanistan with his family and spoke fluent Dari and Pashto. Despite knowing him for over 5 years, I don’t know really much more about him, no war stories or tales of derring do. I met Dan in 2005 when he was in Kabul through a doctor friend. I learned later he was in town because he had brought in several children for free cleft palate surgery provided by the excellent CURE hospital in Kabul where they were tended post surgery by his wife Seija who heads the nursing section there. Dan was a religious man who used his love of God as inner strength to help lift the conditions of those he chose to live among – and he didn’t need to tell stories about what he’d done. (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: Why America needs the Draft - In the waning days of the Vietnam War, the American military made a slow - though ultimately momentous - transition to an all-volunteer force. Considering the state of the armed forces at the time, not to mention the cultural gap in the country as a whole, it's hard to fault President Nixon and friends with such a decision. For a nation still wrestling with its role as a global leader (positive!) and/or as an imperialist regime (negative!), while dealing with social upheaval at home, an all-volunteer (or "professional") force must've appeared like an ideal compromise. It certainly seemed the correct solution during the skirmishes of the 1980's and Desert Storm in 1990-91 - we steamrolled communists and dictators alike, never getting immersed in protracted conflict, and victory parades tended to last longer than the actual battles. This professional force fit the modern American narrative well: (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: A Ramadan-Eve Gift - Tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim festival. During Ramadan, it is forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or have sex during daylight hours. It's considered a time for reflection, practicing restraint and patience. Traditionally, things are more quiet around here during Ramadan, with even the Taliban taking a break from major operations. Afghans will tell you that this pause is because of religious strictures against violence and the fact that Ramadan is a time for prayer and being with family. Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that even the Taliban are tired and hungry. It's tough to go out and set an ambush at nightfall if you haven't eaten anything all day. I guess the trogs* decided that before Ramadan kicks off and they fall into a hunger-induced stupor they should use up the explosives they've managed to smuggle into Kabul recently. Use 'em or lose 'em, I guess the theory goes. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: A Piece of the Pie - Local leaders continue to work with Coalition and US Marines in southern Afghanistan. They know we are there to help them and they are making quicker gains by working with us than we made in Iraq. They know we do what we say and we are beginning to see the same from them. The politics are apparent on their side as well as we see rivals attempting to take the place of current leaders because they have broken the wall down and have made progress. Now, others want them out so they can ride on the coattails of those that initiated the success. Some things don’t change. They are cunning and tell lies to have others look poor and unprofessional to even bring in religious points and how their competitors are not the “religious type” and therefore can’t be successful in the long run despite their recent success. Some competitors simply quit, some go to greater lengths to make their competitors appear in the negative light, nothing is surprising anymore to the lengths they will
go, even if criminal. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: How to: Not Even Bother Trying - The title should say it all: President Obama: Look for a New Massoud by Cora Sol Goldstein - Ms. Goldstein is an associate professor at California State University Long Beach. Now, for the record, I fully support members of the academy branching off into new topics. And Ms. Goldstein is doing that—all her early work was on WWI-era Germany, and she’d moved on to Iraq, and now her webpage says she’s focusing on Argentina. That’s all great, and I can’t comment on any of her other scholarship. But nowhere do I see even a hint that she’s even read a book about Afghanistan, to say nothing of taking the time to understand its recent past. Because if she had, then she wouldn’t start her essay by calling for a new Ahmed Shah Massoud, a man whose relationship to his country can only charitably be called complicated. Actually, Human Rights Watch would use another word: war criminal. As the military commander of Jamiat-i Islami in Kabul in the early 1990s, Massoud led the Afshar Campaign. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Welcome to Shelbistan! - The last time I was in Camp Shelby, Miss., I was brand-spanking new to the Iowa Army National Guard. I was part of an entire battalion of communications soldiers who had descended up on this place like locusts, wave after wave after wave. There wasn't much physical damage that was left to be done to the post, of course, because Hurricane Andrew had recently blown through the American South, and the post was being used as emergency housing. Many of the cinder-block buildings were so moldy and wet, soldiers asked whether the hurricane had actually passed over this part of Mississippi. We preferred living and working in our tents. In those days, units still got a 24-hour pass during their 2-week Annual Training periods. One "Retention-Day" busload went to Gulfport, Miss. The other went to New Orleans. You haven't lived until you spend an all-nighter on Bourbon Street, trying to keep your company commander from chasing the wrong kind of women ("Uh, sir? I think she's a man!")... (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: The Second-hand Minuteman - Yesterday, I told you that I wasn't going to deploy to Afghanistan. Today, as I am writing this, I am on a plane headed toward Camp Shelby, Miss. I'm calling this boomerang turn-of-events "Operation Bad Penny." Confused? Imagine how I feel! National Guard life can be fast-changing and full of surprises. The latin motto of the Army National Guard should be "Semper Gumby," for "always green, always flexible." I received less-than-24-hour notice that I'd be headed to Shelby, where I'll help out in getting my buddies in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (2-34 B.C.T.) get from Mississippi, to California, back to Mississippi, and on to Afghanistan. While packing my bags, I considered my Minuteman ancestors: Citizen-soldiers who kept a musket at the ready, who could run toward the sound of the guns, at moment's notice. Me? I can be spontaneous--I just have to plan ahead to get that way. Apparently, so does today's National Guard: (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Getting Off the Bus - It's time I tell you something ... After months of mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and fiscal preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, I didn't get on the bus. I will not be deploying to Afghanistan with 2-34th Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. Today marks the last unit send-off from Iowa, and I'm not going with them. A rule regarding my pending 20-year-mark and subsequent retirement was reinterpreted by Big Army, and I'll most likely be leaving uniformed service in December. I will continue to be a member of the Iowa Army National Guard until then. Yes, I was surprised by this turn of events. So was my family. And we're all a little conflicted about it. It quite literally came down to the hour I was to throw my duffel bags on the truck. "Everybody get your bags on the truck--hold on there, Sherpa, not so fast!" It's hard to change family focus and plans so quickly. Hard to see one's buddies go off to war. Hard not to feel left behind. (READ MORE)

She Who Waits: Finally! - Not much more to add, except that it's wonderful to have him home. Though, it's a little weird to have him here in the house. He was only here for 2-3 weeks before he deployed for a year and we went away for R&R, so he didn't come home then either. It's not a bad weird by any means, just odd. Not that I'm complaining! (READ MORE)

Marine Wife: Back in the sister 'hood! - I've spent the past 2 years in Civilian Land. There's nothing wrong with that. But there was no military base, no commissary, no Exchange, none of the support and services we're used to having available whether we use them or not. But mostly, there were very few military spouses. Of all the things I missed, the camaraderie and support that only another military spouse can offer was what I missed the most. After our recent PCS, I've landed in the land of milk of honey. Not only am I back on a military installation, but I'm in an apartment building. I know some of you are shuddering right now so hear me out. My kids have other military brats near their age to play with CONSTANTLY (which makes getting grounded a punishment with real bite now). I'm surrounded by other spouses to motivate, support and commiserate with me. I have people to put down as emergency contacts! I have cohorts with whom to find trouble adventures. (READ MORE)

airforcewife: Hard Decisions and Change - A recent article in Stars and Stripes has a lot of people talking, and talking about a subject a subject sure to result in raised voices and anger in almost every conversation - the sustainability of military retirement benefits. Namely, as described by the 25 member Defense Business Board, that military retirement benefits are too expensive and the system needs to be changed. Several possibilities were put forth, including raising length of time in service before retirement benefits kick in and lowering benefit amount. And the reasons behind what the Defense Business Board recommended were undeniable: the United States budget needs to find cuts somewhere. Now, I'm not privy to all the internal conversations. I don't know the members of the Defense Business Board personally, we don't do lunch. I've only met the Secretary of Defense once, and I didn't really meet him then, I just got my picture taken with him (his hair is much better than mine). (READ MORE)

AWTM: Break it to me Gently - We have had a long deployment break, in fact I am sure it is longer than the rest of my Spousebuzz cohorts. I won't even mention it out of fear of the stones that could be thrown. We at Spousebuzz have posted about the guilt regarding long breaks in deployments as well. When your job as a family is "to serve" and everyone else is serving, at some point and time you feel as if you are not pulling your weight. When we went through our last move, we missed 2 National Guard deployment cycles by luck, and not choice, and DH was very disappointed. I was actually relieved, and felt guilty about it. Recently my husband had to attend a ceremony, and it was mandatory that the entire family go. That week was a difficult one, as my Father had been in and out of the hospital with multiple health problems including kidney failure, a brand new diagnosis of diabetes, and a very large blood clot in his lower leg. It was a long week, and I was spent.....it was also the week I turned 40. My Husband said "there was no good time to tell me the news". (READ MORE)

Texas Music: In Transit - Well, we are in Kuwait. Camp Virginia, to be precise, a transient camp not unlike Camp Buehring, where we spent a few days before heading to Iraq last year. Back to tent living. It's not too bad. I have my inflatable sleeping pad for my bad back, which makes the cot tolerable. We are crammed in pretty close together, which brings with it certain frustrations. Alarms, for one thing. People set alarms on their iPhone things or alarm clocks or whatever at weird odd middle of the night hours, then sleep through the ringing/beeping/foghorn sounds, which prompts me or some other light sleeper to stumble over to their cot, kick it and hiss, "Turn off your fucking alarm, asshole." Other than that it's a joy. Except not really. It is hot. I mean hot, hot. Iraq was hot, no doubt, but this is some sort of special heat. It's up in the 120s to 130s and does not cool down at night. It's like there is a fan blasting super heated air on you wherever you go. It's miserable and makes one not spend any more time than necessary out of doors. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Pseudo-Left 'Hero' And War Criminal Julian Assange Takes A Deserved Lashing - It's too bloody late, of course, but still. In the matter of Amnesty International, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the Open Society Institute, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Kabul office of the International Crisis Group Versus the WikiLeaks "hero" Julian Assange: We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces. We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyze all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted. Here's how the foppish, arrogant bastard responded: I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses. If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Keeping Faith - Spc. Faith Hinkley often had a smile on her face, but last week, her well-defined grin was even wider than usual. She was calling and e-mailing relatives and close friends to let them know she might be coming home from Iraq a bit earlier than originally planned. As U.S. troop levels are drawn down before the end of combat operations is declared on August 31, the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, deployed to Iraq since September 2009, is just about finished with its mission. Instead of greeting Spc. Hinkley at a welcome home ceremony, her parents, grandparents, friends, and fellow soldiers are awaiting the solemn opportunity to touch, kiss, and salute her flag-draped casket. On Saturday in Iskandariya, Iraq, terrorists ended the 23-year-old woman's life by firing a rocket at an office building. The Valley Courier reports that Hinkley was pronounced dead of severe stomach wounds at a Baghdad hospital. Two more U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded in the attack and are expected to survive. (READ MORE)

ACU's, Stiletto Shoes, and Pretty Pink Tutus: An Officer and his Specialist - One thing I love dearly about the military is that while we all go through similar things everyone has a unique story. Like this AGR/NG, Officer/Enlisted couple. Follow more on this amazing couple's journey here. “Fraternization in the military is a big deal. There is a bold line drawn between the officer and enlisted which sometimes drives me crazy. In my opinion, it does not matter what rank you are, you are still a person, a human being that deserves respect for that exact reason. Private through General, I don't care who you are, you will have my respect and I expect the same in return. However, the military does not necessarily agree with my viewpoint, and as a Specialist, there is no reason for them to. From day one in basic training the Drill Sergeants beat into our heads that once you are in the Army, the rank on your chest dictates who you can hang out with, who you can date, and how you speak to another person.” (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Outside The Wire With CPT T - CPT T has provided us with an incredible view "outside the wire" with these photos from a Village Medical Operation (VMOP). VMOPs are performed throughout Afghanistan by many (if not all) of the brigade combat teams as well as the provincial reconstruction teams and civil affairs teams. When I first arrived in Afghanistan, I was a bit dissapointed to find out that I would not be allowed to go out and provide medical care for the civilian populace. I questioned if we were truly "engaged" with the people of Afghanistan as it related to helping them wherever and whenever we could. Since that post I have learned just how much we do help. It simply wasn't part of my mission (the Army frowns on putting their surgeons at greater risk than necessary). So, I stayed on the FOB for my nearly 6 months in Afghanistan... and then left in one piece :). But, in fact, we are engaged. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: The cost of an Afghan life is…? - ABC news has put out an article on compensation for families of Afghan civilians killed by foreign forces. It especially focuses on the Germans: The story goes on to discuss a potential lawsuit in German courts on behalf of the victims’ families. It also mentions American compensation: I wrote about financial compensation for civilian victims of Western forces in Afghanistan about a year-and-a-half ago. My conclusion? Using figures and guesstimates from Alef Shah Zadran’s work on local legal systems (admittedly with a limited area for case studies), the foreign military compensation rates are – minus the unmarried girl as compensation thing – possibly quite close to customary compensatory payments among Pashtuns for wrongful death (caveats in original article, read it before you send me angry emails). And I assume that the victims in the German case are Pashtuns since the incident was in Chahar Dara. (READ MORE)

Sarah: Pizza and Other Details - "Ever since I got home from Afghanistan, I have had this total pizza fetish. I want pizza constantly. I used to crave pizza so bad while I was deployed," my husband said last night when a Papa John's commercial came on. And I looked at him like he had just proposed to me... I am lucky that my husband is good at sharing the big feelings. When we had miscarriages while he was away from home, and while he was deployed during my entire successful pregnancy, he often shared how he was feeling about these major events. He talked of his sadness in losing the babies, and he talked of his joy in knowing that we would soon have a little girl. But my husband never talks about the little things about deployment. I feel like big chunks of his life are a mystery to me. I wanted to know what he did on a daily basis: what he ate, where he slept, what his leisure time was like. (READ MORE)

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