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This story stinks.
Let's start with this straight up: You can't give Iraq veterans enough compensation (full disclosure: I've done two tours, am still on the second...) but I hope the Minnesota Guard members - and all others - get as much as they can. I'd love to see Congressmen and Senators stop bickering about whether American soldiers are a) failures who've lost the war, or b) cold blooded killers, and instead fight among themselves over who can propose the largest compensation package.
But I think the coverage given thus far to this story is sorely lacking in key details, and the reporters are either in over their heads on military related issues or being intentionally misleading. Most of those key points and unanswered (or unasked) questions are obvious to anyone with military experience.
Let's clear one minor point of potential confusion immediately: the unit in question wasn't in Iraq for 22 months - they were here for 15. The remaining time was spent training and equipping stateside. Not sure how much of that was spent away from home, for most Guard units the answer would be "enough". Anyhow, that's not germane to the discussion - just a point of clarification. Fifteen months in Iraq is long enough (in my humble opinion) to qualify for any benefits - unfortunately policy isn't based on my opinion.
Now, let's look at this specific story bit closer, because it begs about 500 questions - none of which I have time to research, but a few of which I have time to ask.
Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.So, fair or not, they didn't qualify for the benefit. And orders issued that establish that were issued prior to their deployment. But for some reason,
Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.
The tour lasted 22 months.
Anderson said the soldiers he oversaw in his platoon expected that money to be here when they come home.Why? Did someone fail to inform them of their pay and benefits? Who, exactly, should have done so? (Heh – I actually know the answer to that one…) Or worse, did someone lie to them about their pay and benefits?
Now let's simplify the numbers. Instead of saying "730 days" when referencing the minimum, let's use the term "2 years" - because 730 days = 2 years. We can even convert that into months - two years = 24 months. Now that we've got everything converted to like terms, lets perform complex mathematics:
24 months - 22 months = 2 months. That's how far short their actual tour fell of qualifying for the benefits.
But is that the issue? Do you have to serve two years, or do you just have to have orders for two years to qualify? Again, according to the story, "Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school." Which leads one to believe the amount of actual service does not matter. I'm not in the Guard - I don't know the answer, but I'll provide a guess shortly.
Guard members are covered under the GI Bill - the Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserves (MGIB SR) but it's not as robust a benefit as the active duty component receives. But most States (and unless activated under federal orders the Guard is a State unit) offer other additional educational benefits to their Guard troops.
But according to this definition Guard members can qualify for the full benefit only if they serve two years active duty...
Beside the MGIB SR, activated reserve and Guard servicemembers have two other GI Bill options. The first gives those who serve continuously for 24 or more months on active duty, the option to pay into the GI Bill for active duty.And there's a second issue now apparent - the GI Bill is not a "free" benefit - to active duty or Guard troops. If you want it, you have to buy it, via a $100 a month pay reduction for one year. (While that's still a great bargain, many junior troops can't afford it. You only have one chance - and that comes at the start of your career - to buy in.)
So I suspect that this is what happened to the Minnesota Guard troops: because their orders were for a period less than what would qualify them for the GI Bill tuition benefit, they were not given the opportunity to "buy in". They may actually have been given the chance and some may have taken it (the only reason they could actually expect the benefit was waiting for them), but if so none of the news coverage includes that data point - and I can't believe they would neglect to mention that the troops were being denied a benefit they'd actually bought and paid for.
Anderson said the soldiers he oversaw in his platoon expected that money to be here when they come home.Why?
Again, whichever is the point that would have actually qualified them for the benefit, neither the orders they were issued nor the time they served on active duty meets the requirement. In short, while I think they should get it, and while every American might agree with me, they didn't qualify. And if someone lied or mislead them into believing otherwise, that doesn't change the fact that they don't qualify.
And that's an outrage.
Now I'll repeat: I hope Lt Anderson and any of his soldiers who want will get the benefits they deserve. And I think they deserve the GI Bill tuition benefits. But I extend that desire to everyone serving with me in Iraq - along with those in Afghanistan. I don't think the Minnesota Guard deserves special treatment. Here's what ought to happen:
Give the GI Bill to all active duty troops along with Guard/reserve forces activated for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. By "give" I mean ELIMINATE THE "BUY IN" - stop forcing junior troops to decide between feeding their families and tucking some money away for college. And while we're at it, increase the benefit to equal what the troops returning from WWII received. If it could be done for the largest Army in American history, it certainly could be done for the smallest.
Who has that power? Only one group of people can do it. It's not the military. It's not the President.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's the most unpopular institution in the history of the United States: your Congress. (Who are working on another pork-leaden defense spending Bill even as we speak...)
I don't today. Reporter mentions a happy warrior:
When I asked Rozelle what the significance of the race was for him, here’s what he told me:
“It’s a message to the enemy: I’M STILL STRONGER THAN YOU. I’M NOT BEAT.”
Want to know Rozelle’s favorite statistic?
“O – that’s the number of amputees who have committed suicide since 9/12/01.”
If “Inspiration” had a picture next to its definition in the dictionary, you’d see the one I’ve posted above.
If you want to know more about Maj. Rozelle’s amazing story, check out his book “Back in Action.”
So, is this news?
A few months ago, no American would have been foolish enough to do what I had just done: drive from Baghdad west through Iraq's Anbar province, long the hotbed of the country's Sunni Muslim insurgency, and into Jordan. The route was notorious for hijackings, kidnappings and roadside bombs, and passed some of the best-known symbols of the country's mayhem: Abu Ghraib, Hamdaniyah, Fallujah, Ramadi and beyond.It's loaded with caveats, but still very surprising coming from McClatchy news service - one of the most consistently anti-war media outlets around.
But western Iraq has changed, and the drive last Sunday was proof of that.
Not once in the seven hours that it took to travel the 360 miles or so was there a threatening moment. The concrete barriers that used to block traffic along the road at al-Haswa and then later at al-Rutba — so insurgents and bandits could assault cars more easily — had been shoved into the median. Traffic flowed quickly and smoothly.
The biggest obstacles were huge convoys of cargo trucks, escorted by American Humvees, that forced detours across sand and rocks to older side roads. Not long ago such a detour would have been unthinkable.
A couple links by way of followup to what I said here.
First, Victor Davis Hanson:
Almost all the Marines and Army units I visited from Ramadi to Taji to various hot spots in Baghdad and Diyala believe there has been a sudden shift in the pulse of battlefield. Sometimes without much warning thousands of once disgruntled Sunni have turned on al Qaeda, ceased resistance, and are flocking to join government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.He offers some cautions that I would echo, too.
In a rather stunning development, the Iraqi Islamic militant faction known as Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya (a.k.a. "the Iraqi Jihad Union")
has issued a new statement dated October 5 suddenly accusing Al-Qaida's "Islamic State of Iraq" of deliberately killing its fighters in Diyala province and mutilating their bodies.
Though this is actually the second time this week that similar charges have been leveled at Al-Qaida in Iraq by fellow Sunni insurgents, the source of the latest set of allegations--Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya--is most unusual. Less than three months ago, the very same organization was openly working in operational partnership with Al-Qaida, and was even rumored to be considering merging its forces with Al-Qaida's
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC ANCHOR: The U.S. military reports the fourth straight month of decline in troop deaths, 66 American troops died in September, each a terrible tragedy for a family, but the number far less than those who died in August. And the Iraqi government saysThat, by any definition, is ignorance.
civilian deaths across Iraq fell by half last month.
KURTZ: Joining us now to put this into perspective, Robin Wright, who covers national security for The Washington Post. And CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Robin Wright, should that decline in Iraq casualties have gotten more media attention?
ROBIN WRIGHT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not necessarily. The fact is we're at the beginning of a trend -- and it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq.
KURTZ: Barbara Starr, CNN did mostly quick reads by anchors of these numbers. There was a taped report on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Do you think this story deserved more attention? We don't know whether it is a
trend or not but those are intriguing numbers.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But that's the problem, we don't know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress.
KURTZ: But let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.
STARR: Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news.
Heh. Nice to see we've gotten to that point where second hand smoke is someone's first safety concern here.
There is (or was) a plan for Iraqi govt/civic use of a building somewhere near me - I'll spare details but will promise you this information came from someone who was in a position to know. Anyhow, the plan is currently at a dead stop because asbestos was discovered in the structure.
That's dangerous stuff, you know.
These days if you Google her name, you might get an image like this:
But she was put in service 71 years ago and saw action like this: