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January 24, 2010
Give 'em a handBy Greyhawk
Question: what is this man doing?
Dealing with the lingering headache from the Massachusetts Senate election?
Thinking really really hard about Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, the economy and climate change?
Well, yes to almost all, of course - but not in this picture.
I'm not sure why the identity of his trainer is a State secret - but here's the photo that accompanies the story:
The caption reads "Aides say President Obama privately repeated his salute until he got it down."
There's no evidence of that training here.
The salute represents something important, and doing it right is a sign you grasp that importance. It is indeed the "outward manifestation of what we expect" - but in this picture it's exactly wrong, and saying it's right doesn't make it so. If you're going to use this as the leading example of the tremendous effort and attention to detail the president puts to his task as Commander in Chief, you fail.
Somewhere there may exist a photo of Obama rendering a proper salute. This ain't close. And that's a pretty lame start to a story that goes on to detail the many other things Obama has worked so very, very hard on to support the troops. Of course, if you're just trying to convince the 99% of the population who have no idea what a proper salute looks like that this is a "pretty good" example, then maybe it's the perfect start that tells us everything we need to know: the rest, assuredly - the part that actually matters - is just this good.
On the other hand, as far as ball-washing feature coverage of how the president salutes and what it means, the story is sure a hellalot better than this one from the New York Times in 2003:
(Attention check: did you notice which name from paragraph one is missing from paragraph two?)
For the record, a salute is a mutual exchange - it's initiated by a junior and returned by the senior. (The higher ranking you are, the more salutes you will render.) However, salutes are not required to be rendered or returned when the senior or subordinate are in civilian clothes.
Anyone can perfect the salute, few will ever get it.
Related blast from the past: Making Legends
The 40 second long video isn't an urban legend, it isn't "an email from a guy at microsoft" or "a sergeant that was there". But what I suppose both Ed and I failed to make clear is that it is, in fact, a de-bunking of a media-fueled urban legend - Obama as military commander, making decisions on strategy, and literally calling the shots (See this week's iteration, examined here). The guy in this video is, in fact, a guy who needs a note card to recite the names of the military commands in Iraq. Multi-National Force-Iraq is not a bit player. It's the top level of command in the theater. It was recently commanded by a guy named Petraeus and is now commanded by this Odierno dude - both of whom have had their name in the papers a few times. If details like the full names of MNF-I or MNSTC-I (you know, the non-combat dudes who are working with and training our Iraqi partners to turn things over to them?) are hard to pronounce tongue twisters unfamiliar to the average American that's okay. The average American isn't nominally in charge of the operation. Whoever is in charge of developing their strategy and issuing their orders (aka "a plan for Iraq") knows who they are. The President of the United States needs a notecard.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 24, 2010 2:55 AM | Permalink
Let's face it, troops - you guys make a pretty good photo op! Which makes you criminals! Criminals!You did not have to be paying much attention during last night's Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address to notice a young Ar... 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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