Category: Soldiering


PTSD, Interesting

ScienceDailyLogoThis links to an article on a study done in Denmark. The study was carried out on Danish soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

The main thrust of the article lines up with my own experience and gut feelings on PTSD.

Michael Yon brought it to my attention with this post.

I’ve done no actual research into the matter and, as I said, only post this because it lines up with my own gut feelings on the matter. I’d be interested in your thoughts on PTSD. Please, comment freely.

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My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in Aurora, Colorado this weekend. The kind of fear, pain, and horror their loved ones experienced in that theater, and the kind of fear, pain, and horror they are experiencing now in the aftermath have no place in a civilized world.

The urge to do something, anything, to prevent such a thing from ever happening again is a powerful and worthy one.

Like all such situations, allowing ignorance and fear to guide us in our decision-making is a bad idea.

I’ve been reading and reading and reading the internet’s response to the incident in Aurora and I see a lot of ignorance and fear that lead to statements I disagree with and which are, often, just plain wrong. The people making these statements are probably acting in good faith. They just don’t know what they’re talking about.

One of the best responses to most of the anti-gun arguments being raised can be found here at Larry Correia’s blog. I can’t add much to his words on the philosophical and legal side of the house.

However, there’s one aspect to this whole discussion that has bugged me more than any other: the idea that a CCW license holder in that theater would have just made things worse.

Idea 1: “A victim with a gun in that theatre would just have killed even more people with their wild shooting in the smoke and the darkness and the confusion.”

Wrong, and here’s why. Anyone with any familiarity with guns (I’m putting CCW holders in this group) won’t shoot unless they have a clear target and a clear backfield. In this case, if they didn’t have one because of the darkness or the smoke, they simply would not have fired their weapon until they did. You only see crazy undisciplined shooting in movie firefights, which is where the people raising the objection get their information about the use of guns.

Oh, terrorists and gangbangers also practice the “spray and pray” shooting style. Neither group equates, at all, with legal CCW holders, though most of the people objecting to the idea of defending oneself seem to conflate them.

Thus, if it were so dark, smoky, and confusing that a CCW holder would not have fired, we have no change in the outcome, certainly not a worse one. Psycho shoots who he will shoot.

Let’s say, however, that CCW holder did have a good shot. This takes us to…

Idea 2: “The shooter was wearing head-to-toe body armor so your pistols would not have worked. Duh, you scary-gun-people!”

Wrong again. People who get their information about the use of guns from the movies seem to imagine that this head-to-toe body armor granted Holmes invulnerability, the ability to walk unconcerned through gun fire like Arnie as the terminator.

Those of us who have some experience can tell you that being hit with a bullet while in body armor is like getting hit with a hammer while wearing a T-shirt. Not something you can ignore. While pistol bullets  may not have penetrated his armor, they sure as hell would have gotten his attention, knocked him off balance, possibly even knocked him down. Those precious seconds while he was dealing with hammer blows would, unarguably, have saved lives.

Please, let’s not allow ignorance and fear to rule our decision-making about guns.

 

 

 

Myke Cole wrote an intriguing piece over on Jim C. Hines blog the other day.

It was entitled Uniform in the Closet: Why Military SF’s Popularity Worries Me. In it Myke opined that there is a widening gap between the citizens of this nation and our military. Which is especially troubling when you consider the concept of the citizen soldier and how ubiquitous it has been until these recent phases of U.S. history. Military service members, current and former, are increasingly being considered a breed apart. Myke posits that Military SF’s growing popularity is really a manifestation of people’s fascination with the ‘other’ that the actual military is becoming in our culture.

I couldn’t agree more.

One reason for that growing separation is the fact that so few of our nation’s citizens serve in the military. One reason for that, I think, is the legacy of the Vietnam war. So much political hay was made of the military during that period, so much of it blatantly negative propoganda that the stigma was ingrained into an entire generation and is being passed on today.

Returning vets in the 60s and 70s were greeted with everything from harsh words to oven cleaner in the eyes by so-called ‘peace activists.’ Today I have received almost universal thanks and compassion for my service, usually from people who would never ever consider serving themselves. Which is the very problem Myke describes.

“Love the soldier but hate the war” does nothing to help the reputation of the military as a whole since we are the one’s prosecuting the war that is being used as political leverage.

Myke talks about wearing one’s uniform in public. He’s right. It used to be common place. It isn’t anymore.

I myself have, in the past, been very annoyed when I saw soldiers trundling their luggage through the airport in uniform. American soldiers are all taught not to do that. Travel in civilian clothes, don’t draw attention to yourself or your mission. It is the baseline SOP to travel incognito.

When soldiers travel in uniform today most (not all) of them are doing it in the hopes that someone one will give them attention or buy them lunch. That pisses me off. Being in the service is not a license to beg or show off.

But if it became common place, sanctioned and encouraged by the military leadership for CONUS travel, all that would change.

Myke gives the two big reasons why it is discouraged: OPSEC and Force Protection.

OPSEC: If every single traveling soldier traveled in uniform it would be very difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions about operations or troop movements out of the noise. Frankly, the news organizations are more than capable of betraying all that anyway, not to mention the social networking sites.

We would lose nothing and perhaps, if Myke is right, gain a great deal by increasing the visible presence of our military in the general population. Certainly worth a try. (Though I am loathe to give up the comfort of traveling out of uniform)

Force Protection: If you are a soldier traveling CONUS incognito, you are less likely to be a target. The implication of this, of course, is that some other poor schmuck will end up being the target, probably a civilian.  There is an argument to be made that this is the moral parallel of putting your bomb factory next to an orphanage.

If some bad actor wants to target Americans and would choose a soldier over a civilian, good. Make it easy for him to target a soldier instead of a civilian and see where that gets him. It’s our job to take those kind of risks so joe civilian doesn’t have to. Why then are we hiding ourselves among joe civilian on our home territory in hopes that the bad guys will choose someone else?

Of course, with our current crop of enemies, they’d much rather hit civilians than someone trained to defend themselves. Less risky that way.

I’m pleased as punch that Military SF is growing in popularity. I want to sell books and I can write that. I hope it’s not a sign of bad things to come. But it could easily be.

 

dangerous_vet

Or should I say Irresponsible News Media? Or even Cynically Deceptive News Media?

They all fit.

One weekend while I was in Afghanistan (during my second straight year of combat deployment in 2003) my wife and children attended an event put on by the Utah National Guard for soldier’s families. The Utah Guard tries hard to support families and mitigate as best they can the negative effects of their husband’s/family member’s absence in service.

While there my wife was approached by a reporter from a local news organization. The reporter, a woman, told my wife she was grateful for my service and wanted to get the message out about what a soldier’s family goes through during a deployment. A human interest piece.

My wife agreed and they set a time to meet at my home and record an interview.

During the interview the reporter asked a lot of questions and the film crew recorded the entire thing. They were very ‘feely’ questions and my wife cried a couple of times. She was going through a lot that year. As you can guess, a soldier’s deployment is not easy on the family at home. She was frankly grateful that the reporter wanted to tell her story.

Problem was the reporter DIDN’T actually want to tell my wife’s story. She had her own story to tell.

When the piece aired my wife was shocked and horrified. The reporter had brutally cut and edited her tearful answers to innocuous questions so that they looked like answers to completely different questions. Then they’d play some footage of a soldier madly firing a machine gun and screaming. They deliberately made my wife look as though she was afraid I was going to come home and murder the children and maybe the neighbors.

And that was the story they told. It wasn’t a human interest piece. It was a story on how soldiers in the Global War on Terror were going to come home ticking time bombs and murder someone.

Which is why this story cuts so deep. That dishonest and sensational narrative gets endless play in the News Media and it’s a lie.

My wife’s story goes further. Having calmed down about the dishonest and disrespectful way she had been treated by that reporter she made a phone call. She called the reporter and told her how much she had liked the story. She gushed about it. Then she asked the reporter if she could pretty please have a copy of the full original interview footage for our family archives.

The reporter told her she’d need a subpoena to get that footage and hung up on her. The reporter knew exactly what she had done and had clearly done it on purpose, with malice aforethought.

You can see why I am refraining from naming the reporter or the news organization. A woman and an organization that cynical would have no qualms about breaking my little family in half for speaking the truth about them on this subject. I realize that it’s unlikely they’d care enough to target us but I remain cautious.

So, go out and hug a veteran today, or something. They won’t bite. Probably. 😉

Enlisted men

“Enlisted men are stupid, but extremely cunning and sly, and bear considerable watching.”

U.S. Army’s Officer Guide, 1863

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He spotted a man below and reduced enough altitude to where the man could hear him and shouted:  ‘Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but i don’t know where I am’. The man below replied, “You’re in a hot balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude”
“You must be an NCO”, said the balloonist

“I am, replied the NCO, “How did you Know?”

“Well, ” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and I’m still lost. I won’t get to where I’m going with the information you gave me.”

The NCO below responded, “You must be an Officer”

“I am”, replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

” Well,” said the NCO, “you don’t know where your are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now somehow, it’s my fault.”

UdairiRangeI am a religious man, who fails to live up to his ideals every day. I’m working on it.

This happened in the Kuwaiti desert. It’s a story I’ve told to close friends and family.

Here it is for the rest of you.

After a week long exercise in the desert, the Udairi Range for those in the know, we had just finished the culminating event. The ODAs had performed a hit on a quarry and we were all standing around in the dark.

We were expecting the word when it came down. “You’ve been compromised, your vehicles are disabled. Here are the grids for your extraction point and for the route you’re to take to get there.”

My team leader, Mitchell, tapped in the first grid coordinate as fast as he could and we punched out into the night.

I had volunteered to carry the satellite radio. A little bit smaller than a kitchen drawer, it was very dense and heavy. I had my ruck built up already though, with a pocket for the radio close to my back and strapped in high.

The night was  cold, even colder than was typical for a desert in Kuwait, the sky clear. Once we were about a kilometer out into the desert we stopped and performed a SLLS halt. (Stop, Look, Listen, Smell, prounounced ‘sills’) The purpose of such a halt is to get a feel for the area. To try and determine what is normal. To discover if you are alone.

All was well. Once the SLLS was complete, while the other five of us pulled security, Mitchell punched in the rest of the coordinates for our route. I heard him swear softly. We’d been given the longest route of anyone participating in the exercise. 47 kilometers. We had until the next night to get to our extraction point and traveling during the day was verboten.

I was worried. It had only been a klik or so, but I was already feeling the weight. I suspected that I might have over-estimated how many pounds I could carry. But what was I going to do? Ask someone else to do it? Not a chance.

We stood up and went on, curving out into the desert along the prescribed route. I pounded along, keeping up as best I could. Hot spots were developing on my feet.

A few hours later I was even more worried about my situation. I was keeping up alright but I was having trouble keeping my balance through the alternating bands of sand, softball sized rocks, and gravel. I knew that if I started falling it would be the end. I would have disgraced myself and my team.

Desperation was a growing pressure in my chest.

I muttered a prayer, asking God for help of some sort. It came to my mind that I should ask for a walking stick. I grinned to myself. Why not? If I was asking for help from a divine being, why not a walking stick in the middle of the most barren landscape I had ever seen?

It got worse. Clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped.

Through the dust ahead of me I picked out a fenceline. I grimaced and steeled myself for the ordeal of either climbing over it with my pack on, if it was low, or taking the bloody thing off and putting it back on again on the other side. Neither prospect thrilled me.

I wondered, though, if one of the posts might not be persuaded to come loose and be pressed into service as that walking stick I’d been asking for. I’d seen fences in kuwait, some of the posts were made from lengths of PVC, others metal, others lengths of rattan. I was hoping for rattan.

As we got closer to the fence I realized it wasn’t a fence. There was only the one post. The men ahead of me walked on, past whatever it was sticking out of the sand.

I stopped, sweating there in the dark, and stared. It was the bottom half of a HMMV’s radio antenna. The half with the big brass threaded nut on the end. It stood there in the sand, heavy brass end down. It wasn’t even partially buried, it was balanced upright. I extended a finger and tapped it. It fell over.

I looked up and all around. The other men were dark hunchbacked shadows moving through the night.

I squatted down just far enough to snag the antenna and picked it up. Grasping it by the heavy brass end, tip on the ground, it reached to just above my waist. A perfect walking stick.

I muttered a brief prayer of incredulous thanks and moved on through the desert, aided by my walking stick. The wind and the weather got worse.

In the end we made good time and were the second of seven elements to reach the extraction point. I had blisters that covered the entire heel and ball of my foot. I walked very daintily for days after that exercise.

The “walking stick” is still in my equipment room.

Sorry folks, this is going to be a long one.

When I was in college ROTC I met a guy with the unlikely name of William Waddoups Jacobsen Jr. He didn’t tell me about the Waddoups right away, he was just Bill.

Bill was older than the rest of us. At least he felt that way to me. He was only one year ahead of me in school but he was a mentor, a steadying influence, and a friend through all the strange disquieting times that come upon a freshman in college away from home for the first time. He lifted me up and pushed me down in turn, as I needed it.

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And a good time was had by all.

We actually got back a couple of weeks ago but life  has been too busy to post here.

So, apparently there’s a push coming down from on high that units in the Utah NG and elsewhere provide ‘proof of training’ beyond the word of their officers and NCOs. As a result the command had a photographer/videographer along on our AT in Montana. Thousands of pictures and videos are promised to the men of the unit but so far all we’ve gotten is this teaser video.

Note that the guy twisting in the wind at 1:30 is our company commander. He may not know how to exit an aircraft but he sure knows how to put on good training.

binladen-xGlad to finally be able to put UBL into the ‘good’ category.

As wigg1es so aptly put it on Boing Boing, “If only this actually meant anything……”

What does it mean?

That the vast majority of Americans will now be able to tell themselves that all is right with the world, the boogey man is no more, and that this actually does change something.

I hope and I pray that they are right, that it will change something. I doubt that UBL’s fellow travelers will now shrug their shoulders and walk away into obscurity, but I hope they do.

I also hope and pray that the believers in Democracy and the Rule of Law around the world who depend on American might will not now be abandoned in an orgy of political expediency among our politicians.

Edit: Buried at sea? Really?  – No pictures yet? Really? – Is our government TRYING to minimize the positive effects of this action?

Edit 2: So we’ve had two years of the left telling birthers that insisting on proof, documentation, of an event is stupid, in order to defend Obama’s failure to produce an official birth certificate. This thought pattern is so ingrained that now we must laugh to scorn those who ask for proof, like a high-res photo, of UBL’s dead body? Folks, as a friend of mine said, “There are people who still believe Elvis is alive, and we’re not producing a picture of UBL dead? WTF?”

Bonus links:

Fareed Zakaria on the death of Bin Laden

I’ve been out of the country for a while and busy for longer than that.
I deployed to Senegal Africa with the National Guard and had a grand old time.
Senegal was interesting. Among other things it was almost entirely populated with black people. Who knew? Coming from Utah, this was quite a difference. It wasn’t long though, before it became apparent that most things were still very much the same. The Senegalese seem to be primarily concerned with putting food on the table and generally making their way in the world.
Among other things, Senegal is very proud that their country has never had a military coup. Also, they have the largest Baobab forest in the world. This forest was, apparently, about 10 kilometers south of where we were in Thies. I wouldn’t know as we were too busy to make it there. I did get to go into downtown Thies on several occasions as well as see a bit of Dakar but raw tourism was pretty much off the table.
There were some trinket vendors just outside the section of the Senegalese military base we were on, well, not really trinkets, most of it was nicer than trinkets but you get the idea.
I determined that I wasn’t going to buy statues of any exotic animals unless I saw those animals during my stay. As it ended up, I could have bought a statue of a goat, a pig, a horse, or maybe a cow. The elephants, lions, giraffes and monkeys were not in evidence. Very exciting. So next I asked if I could get a wooden piece made from baobab wood. I was sternly informed by a women manning one of the tables that baobab wood was no good for carving. It’s really not even good for making fires. You can make rope or clothes out of it if you’re really desperate. Instead I wanted some nice teak pieces. Yes?
I don’t know if baobab wood got such a bad rep because the woman didn’t have any to sell me or if it’s really no good for carving.
Gris Gris were no good either. Gris Gris are charms, good luck charms in particular. I asked if they had a gris gris specifically for luck in battle. Nope, just luck in life in general. I went back and asked for a battle specific gris gris a couple of times until finally it became apparent that they would probably hand me one the next time I came back and tell me it was for battle just so I’d shut up.
I did see a nifty mask though. It’s an ugly little thing, totally unlike the other masks on the table. Upon questioning the woman told me that it was a bird mask of the Seti people in the old style. It was so ugly it kind of grew on me in only a few minutes so I bought it.