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January 23, 2010
Quake reportBy Greyhawk
Team Rubicon, for those who haven't been following, "is a self-financed and self-deployed group of former Marines, soldiers and health care professionals currently providing emergency relief in Haiti." When they heard of the disaster, they decided to "just do it." While others were busy complaining about the post-quake chaos at the Port au Prince Airport, they went in through the Dominican Republic and have been conducting relief efforts all week.
None of that would be known had it not been for team member Badger Jake, a milblogger who launched his site in 2005 with the story of his trip to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina ("Although I'm out of school, presently unemployed and living with my parents, my life has actually been kind of exciting...") and followed shortly after with "Peace out civilian world. I'll see you in 13 weeks as a Marine. Check back here, I might have my parents write some updates for me on how I'm doing in boot camp. Otherwise, put the beers on ice."
From there Iraq during the surge and Afghanistan the following year. Then late last year, "I'm a civilian now, a very happy one. I spent the last four years proudly serving in the Marine Corps and now it is time for me to find a new direction in my life." Fortunately the title of that last post (Last Post?) included a question mark - and the answer is no. Three months later he's in Haiti, and blogging again.
Now back to what Glenn said. (Memory jogger: "You want it done right, send a Milblogger.") He's right - if you want to establish order from chaos quickly in the wake of a major disaster you send in the US military (see Katrina), and if you want the story told you make sure someone's along who can tell it. Team Rubicon includes former military - in this case think experienced emergency responders - and that's precisely why they're able to do what they're doing. Combine experience with teamwork, rapid life-or-death decision making, long term existence in austere conditions, and an ability to keep your head while all about you are losing theirs with a desire to fix broken things (and recognize what isn't) and you've got the basic description of the sort of people you want to have around should a disaster strike in your world.
I suppose mechanic is as good a name as any for that sort of person. The U.S. military attracts such people. (This doesn't mean everyone in the military is such a person - far from it.) But the military takes people with (or without) that born desire to fix broken things and provides them with the experience in teamwork, life-or-death decision making, and surviving in austere conditions mentioned above. Somewhere along the way comes the discovery of whether you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs - and whether you can put up with those who can't (along with those who actually break things, or those who will put forth great effort to fix things that ain't broken) long enough to make a career of it.
"It" being the military. When something breaks the born mechanic will always show up with the right tools, whether he's in a uniform or not.
Previously: Very Nice Things
Posted by Greyhawk / January 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Permalink
Castle Argghhh!!! has a report from Vietnam-era vet who is working aboard USNS Comfort. You can also follow the ship on Twitter @USNSComfort and get some idea of what's happening on board the ship. ***** Previously: Quake report Next: Automatic for the... Read More
Following up on this post yesterday ~ here's a look at some of the guys it was my pleasure to cross paths with at the milblogs conference this month. Matt Bernard ran a milblog, and was a panelist at the 2009 conference. ("Taking Care of Veterans," vid... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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