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Haven't had much to say since I got home from Iraq. But now I am entering the twilight and had a couple of thoughts.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that top military officers and civilians had to sign a letter promising to keep details secret as they work on the military's budget.
Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that Secretary Robert Gates made the unusual request out of concern for national security. He said the department didn't want any leaks to "unravel" the budget process.
"This is highly sensitive stuff involving programs costing tens of billions of dollars, employing hundreds of thousands of people and go to the heart of national security," he said. "And so he wants this process to be as disciplined and as forthright as possible.
"And he thinks that by having people pledge not to speak out of school, if you will, on these matters while they are a work in progress, that you'll create a climate in which you can ultimately produce a better product, because people can speak candidly with the confidence that it will not be leaked," he said.
Gates remained as secretary under Obama after serving under President Bush, but this year is the first time he is requiring the non-disclosure statements.
That explains the CNO's email the other week.
"Call me a softie", says Tom Ricks, "but I don't understand why this murder case involving American troops hasn't gotten more media attention in this country. This seems to me worse than the tortures at Abu Ghraib."
The accused has since been found guilty and sentenced to life with possibility of parole.
[Leahy’s civilian lawyer] said the government will likely seek Leahy’s cooperation in murder cases against two other soldiers — Master Sgt. John Hatley and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo — who also are accused of shooting the detainees.So let's re-write Ricks' statement into a question: "Why hasn't this case gotten more (or equal) media attention in America than Abu Ghraib?"
Quick update: Bonus points if your answer includes "Brandon Neely".
And - time's up. Twenty four hours and no one offered the answer, which is simple: The entire purpose of media fixation on Abu Ghraib was the hope that it could end George Bush's Presidency. George Bush is no longer president. Thus, American reporters no longer have to pretend to give a damn what happens to Iraqis.
(Also at Mudville.)
On lifting the ban of photographing coffins at Dover:
If you read my blog, you would know that in Oct. '05, our youngest son, Noah had the honor of escorting his good friend and brother SPC Thomas Byrd to his final rest. He accompanied Tommy from Dover to Chicago to Tucson. He and I spoke a number of times before, during and after his mission. He spoke (and I blogged) of the kindness and the respect of those he came in contact with on his journey. I told the story of Tommy and Noah's last journey together [on my blog].
Because our son had been wounded and returned stateside a few weeks before, he was not there when the IED took Tommy and four other brothers in his squad. When he first learned that he had been granted the honor of taking Tommy home, he told me that when they all went off to war, they promised each other that they would bring each other home. "This isn't how we thought it would happen, Ma." To our son, the opportunity to greet his friend at Dover and have that private reunion with him and the interactions as they transferred between planes and when they reached their final destination were moments that would not be -- nor could they ever be -- the same if the media were present and snapping away.
The final minutes with his friend were solemn and special and private moments that are -- and should remain -- reserved for those who understand the sacrifice. They do not have to personally know the soldier, but they do have to BE a soldier or family to understand. And understanding in this case is just not the same as knowing.
All of it at Some Soldier's Mom (with links)
WASHINGTON - For the third consecutive year, a classified Pentagon assessment has concluded there is a significant risk that the US military could not respond quickly and fully to any new crisis, the Associated Press has learned.
Senior military officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because it is a classified document.
On the other hand, if the report really isn't classified in the sense that those in the military or the [professional] Intelligence community might understand (that would exclude DiFi HERE and HERE among other places calling her out) but is, instead, only confidential until sent to Congress (whose members can't keep a secret and haven't the wherewithal to parse through more than the media's opinion of legislation and all things governmental (the Congressional Recovery Assistance Program, for example) and this report has been leaked to underscore the stupidity and folly of calling for budget cuts to force readiness initiatives in the DoD budget... well, then OK. But CLASSIFIED?? CLASSIFIED??
And lastly, the truly important part of the assessment isn't that the military is stretched thin, but these:
The assessment finds that the United States continues to face persistent terrorist threats...and
This year's assessment finds many of the same global security issues as previous years - ranging from terrorist organizations and unstable governments to the potential for high-tech cyber attacks.and
"This is a chairman who looks around the world and sees - right now, today - immediate, near-term problems like North Korea, the larger questions of Pakistan and its future, Iran and what is going on there, Russia and Georgia, Venezuela, which has a close relationship with Russia and is buying arms all over the place, and Cuba," Goure said.
x-posted at Some Soldier's Mom
We both realized that our military blogs tended to delve into non-military political topics and we want to avoid that. In an effort to keep our political views and our military views separate, we set up this site and have invited some great talent.
Be warned: this will NOT be a strictly conservative site. All military bloggers from both sides of the political fence are invited to write. As an example, one of the writers will be Army Sergeant, an active IVAW member. We are also opening up memberships to any military personnel or veterans with a blog that also wants to keep the non-military political tendencies where they are most fitting.
...reason #97: "Because our freaking meteorologists are hardcore badass":
2/12/2009 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- In an instant, Senior Airman Alex Eudy went from battling the enemies of Afghanistan to battling for his life.
It was just after 1 a.m. Jan. 24. He was only two months into his first deployment after graduating from Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Fla., in September 2008. The special operations weather team journeyman and the Marines he served with were on patrol about 30 miles from their firebase in the western province of Farah.
Behind the wheel of the fourth of four up-armored humvees, Airman Eudy and the five others in his vehicle kept their eyes peeled for variations in the road surface, exposed wires, freshly dug soil - "scab left" or "scab right" they called out. The driver adjusted his path of travel accordingly to mitigate the threat to the special operations patrol.
Then the roadway erupted.
Two 155 mm mortars and a Soviet anti-tank mine were command detonated under the front of the vehicle. The engine flew 30 feet away as the six-ton rig somersaulted three times. The concussion of the blast rendered Airman Eudy unconscious.
His personal protective gear had done its job - no puncture wounds or lacerations from flying debris. In the violence of the explosion, his helmet chinstrap had sawed through the skin on his lower jaw. Everything else seemed fine - except his legs.
When he came to, he said he was lying nearby outside the vehicle - he thought he'd been thrown out.
"My Marines told me when they pulled me out of the vehicle, they could hear the bones crunching," the 22-year-old warrior said. "Of the six of us in that vehicle, I was one of the two who were non-ambulatory."
So Airman Eudy became the casualty collection point as the Marine special ops team set a defensive perimeter and requested med-evac airlift. He didn't just lie there, Airman Eudy said. He checked his buddies and put his Combat Lifesaver first aid training to work. He checked his weapon - the 9 mm pistol was still in its holster, but his M-4 rifle had been lost in the explosion.
In the hours and days after the explosion, Alex's parents, Dale and Kathy Eudy of Highlands Ranch, Colo., spoke with Alex and others involved in the convoy, medical evacuation, treatment and travel back to the states.
Despite dozens of fractures from both knees down, the special ops weatherman kept his mission focus, Dale said. With a medical evacuation helicopter, Alex's special operations weather team mission was paramount.
"When the med-evac was inbound, Alex was telling his Marines how to use his instruments to pass critical weather data for the helicopter landing zone," Dale said.
"That's what we do - generate high-fidelity, localized, mission-tailored forecast to for ingress, employment and egress of air, land and sea forces," Alex said.
His training and discipline had earned him his gray beret, fulfilling a dream he'd held as a 17-year-old. Now it would bolster him for survival and recovery.
"When the med-evac helicopter touched down, the flight medical technician knelt down to Alex who was strapped down on the stretcher," Dale said. "'We're gonna take care of you, he said. You're going to be okay.'"
In triage later that morning, Alex said he heard the doctor saying, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The quote by Sir Edmund Burke is tattooed on Alex's back.
"That's why we're here," Alex said. "That's why special tactics is so important. We can't sit around and let evil triumph."
Less than 10 days after the explosion, Alex was lying in a waiting room in the hospital at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. -- swaddled from the knees down in bandages, bones pinned, screwed and grafted. He was surrounded by family and friends - "and everyone is Alex's friend," Kathy said.
Lt. Gen. Donny Wurster, the Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, stopped in to present the bed-ridden, post-op Airman with The Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
The only time Alex's "eyes leaked," as he put it, was when he offered tribute to his fellows who were wounded with him and to the Marines who had adopted him as one of their own.
They adopted him, as they do all special operations battlefield Airmen, because despite their high-operations tempo, these Airmen seamlessly integrate with their sister service brothers.
"We're in the field in direct contact with enemy fighters and friendly air assets, keeping them abreast of real-time conditions on the target," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Gilbert, 10th Combat Weather Squadron operations NCO in charge.
Despite the months of painful healing, rehabilitation and reliance on others, he is not dissuaded.
"Wallowing in sorrows doesn't do anybody any good," Alex said. "I'm not out of the fight. This is just a different kind of fight."
He approaches his recovery just like any other mission.
"Just like we pack our gear for a mission, I know what's going on with my treatment," he said. "I'm packing my tools for a different battlefield. As a patient, I'll never be uneducated - I'll know my treatment options and medications." He hopes his recovery will lead him to the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Alex said there is a chance he will not return to duty as a fully functioning and deployable special operations weather team member. Regardless, his special tactics brethren offer unflagging support to Alex and his family. That camaraderie - seemingly forged in the DNA of special tactics Airmen - will carry Alex down the road to recovery, he said.
"They become your family and families intertwine," Alex said. "In special tactics, you're held to a higher calling. It's something more that protects you, not only on the battlefield, but on the home front as well."
Time will tell whether Airman Eudy wins his battle to regain his former mobility. Vast challenges lay ahead, but Alex Eudy - Airman, warrior, friend - is keeping his eyes forward to win the next battle.
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FL -- Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Donny Wurster, pins the Air Force Combat Action Medal to Senior Airman Alex Eudy's shirt during an informal ceremony at the hospital here Feb. 3. Airman Eudy also received The Purple Heart for injuries he received during his deployment in Afghanistan. An improvised explosive device destroyed the vehicle he and five other U.S. military members were traveling in Jan. 23. All six survived the attack. Airman Eudy, a special operations weatherman in the 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field, FL, is on the mend and in good spirits after extensive surgery to his lower legs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Ty Foster)
Took me a year to find the time to do it, but I found the hundred-year-old book and the quote that was discussed here back in the day. Results here.
A reminder that "state of the art" can have a limited life.
Initial reports are thin (I collected some of the initial ones based on a Ken Adams tip) but we've now got three Brit newspapers saying that the RN SSBN collided with French SSBN Le Triomphant. Doesn't sound as though anyone was injured or any significant damage, but this is at a time the British are actively planning how to deal with Trident end-of-life and the French also have some big discussions to do about nuclear weapons and deterrence.
The collision may well change how those discussions go.
This is from last month and meant to post it then but time got away from me.
English translation: "Good fortune, Mr. President! ”: the blog of the soldiers they comment Obama
Soldati americani di stanza in Iraq (by http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmed… Flickr)
“Ma non poteva metterci anche Fallujah?” si domanda CDR Salamander sul suo blog. “Ha citato le battaglie di Concord e Gettysburg, la Normandia e Khe Shan” si lamenta, “per Iraq e Afghanistan solo buone intenzioni per il futuro”. “Buona fortuna, mr. President!” scrive invece Eaglespeak, “le nostre preghiere sono con te”. Il discorso di insediamento del nuovo presidente americano suscita emozioni contrastanti tra i soldati e i veterani delle guerre volute da George W. Bush.
I loro blog, nati tra le montagne afghane o i deserti iracheni e tenuti in vita anche dopo il ritorno in Usa sono centinaia. Dal fronte come da casa accolgono le opinioni, le speranze, le critiche dei soldati. In comune, l’orgoglio dei commilitoni e la convinzione di combattere per una giusta causa. Ma non mancano le critiche, anche feroci, contro i comandanti e i politici, Bush incluso.
Il sito “Milblogs.com” raccoglie molti dei diari online scritti da militari o simpatizzanti. E anche sul cambio della guardia alla Casa Bianca dicono la loro. Poche le critiche esplicite al neopresidente, ma a dominare più che l’eccitazione mostrata a Washington dalle folle osannanti, è la perplessità. “Cominciamo bene” commenta “Iraq war today” sulla decisione della nuova amministrazione di sospendere i processi a Guantanamo. Mentre sul discorso inaugurale non ci sono commenti ma solo link alla filo-repubblicana Fox News. “Mi sembrano tutti un po’ troppo eccitati, aspettiamo di vedere cosa farà questo tizio” scrive Illini6, nome di battaglia di un veterano dell’ Afghanistan. C’è poi chi rivolge il suo pensiero al presidente uscente: “Ora i liberal non sapranno più chi incolpare per tutto ciò che non va nel mondo” scrive l’ex ufficiale della marina Joel Kennedy, dall’Idaho, che poi aggiunge “e i conservatori potranno iniziare a incolpare Obama e inventarsi i suoi piani diabolici”.
“Adesso gli ‘adulti’ sono al comando” commenta sarcastico Cassandra su “Villainous company“, “vediamo cosa combinano al posto di quei bambini capricciosi che hanno difeso la nostra nazione”.
Il blog “eaglespeak” scritto da un ex marine
La portata storica dell’elezione di Obama comunque non sfugge ai blogger con l’elmetto: “Wow! Abbiamo un presidente nero. Cosa hanno da ridire sulla nostra democrazia adesso francesi, olandesi, inglesi e tedeschi?” scrive Cdr Salamander, che posta una serie di appunti da lui presi “seguendo la cerimonia con un gruppo di marines e soldati dell’aviazione”: “applausi per Obama quando appare sullo schermo, meno di quelli per Clinton, uguale a Bush senior. Molti più applausi per Obama quando viene annunciato. Divisione razziale? Sì, applaudono di più i neri. Buona accoglienza alle parole di Bush, ha detto GUERRA! Bene. Miglior frase di Obama? Vi stenderemo la mano se voi schiuderete il vostro pugno. Bel discorso.” Più entusiasmo verso il nuovo Commander in Chief nel resoconto pubblicato dal sito 11alive della Cnbc, dall’aeroporto di Hartsfeld in Georgia tra le truppe in partenza per l’Iraq: “Spero che ci faccia tornare prima del previsto” commenta il soldato Reshwan Carr di Chicago, mentre il sergente Don Crittendon chiosa: “Devo decidere se fare carriera nell’esercito o no. Dipende da cosa deciderà quell’uomo nei prossimi quattro anni”.
English translated page here (Note: not a very good translation but you get the gist.All done!
Video of crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln reciting the Gettysburg Address as they celebrate the 200th birthday of the ship’s namesake.
TIME joined the crew and spoke with each member.
CDR Salamander asks:
How could the Navy possibly ruin such an opportunity? How could something as inclusive, uniting, and purely American as the Gettysburg Address be used as a tool to divide Sailors?
Admit, it does make you all tingly inside. You know it does.
The FBI raided the offices of a defense lobbying firm with close ties to Democratic Rep. John Murtha (Penn.), sources tell ABC News.
The FBI searched the Virginia headquarters of the PMA Group in November, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. PMA was founded by former Murtha aide Paul Magliochetti and specializes in winning earmarked taxpayer funds for its clients.
Good government groups have long criticized Murtha's cozy relationship with a handful of lobbyists and defense firms, ties that see millions of dollars in government spending go out from Murtha's office, and hundreds of thousands in campaign donations come in. Murtha has said his earmarking has helped revive his economically depressed district.
PMA is the second company with close ties to Murtha to be raided by federal agents recently. In January, agents from the FBI, the IRS and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service searched the office of Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems, as well as the homes of the firms' founders. The companies reportedly have received over $100 million in earmarks, thanks to Murtha's efforts.
"The FBI is showing a lot of interest in" a lot of people around Murtha, said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "If I was in Murtha's camp, I would not be sleeping at night."
On their way to a memorial service, a Canadian contingent is rendered honors and returns in kind.
This old sailor got a little misty.
Val Kilmer thinks he's qualified to be a leader and is reported to be seriously considering a run for Governor of New Mexico in 2010.
Good luck with that.
But he won't get any votes from Vietnam vets!
Before anyone considers voting him take a look at his interview for Esquire magazine :
Klosterman: You mean you think you literally had the same experience as Doc Holliday?
Kilmer: Oh, sure. It's not like I believed that I shot somebody, but I absolutely know what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone's life.
Klosterman: You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?
Kilmer: I understand it more. It's an actor's job. A guy who's lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He's some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that's why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn't get on the football team, couldn't finagle a scholarship. They didn't have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.
Ahem, wow, it's nice to see how he feels about our military.
I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.
Really? You think very highly of yourself there Val.
Kilmer, will never have the courage of their convictions to actually do something honorable as he obviously lack's the essential characteristics of honor, integrity, duty, and honesty.
Anyone who has been reading Mudville or the Dawn Patrol, knows who Scott Kesterson is, a U.S. photojournalist who spent 15 months embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan in an effort to understand the conflict.
This is the first time many Canadians have even seen how their military have been sacrificing. The Canadian military were not happy. So there's some controversy in the Canadian Military.
The wreckage of the HMS Victory, found below about 330 feet of water, may carry an even bigger jackpot. Research indicates the ship was carrying 4 tons of gold coins when it sank in storm, said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, ahead of a Monday news conference in London.
So far, two brass cannons have been recovered from the wreck, Stemm said. The Florida-based company said it is negotiating with the British government over collaborating on the project.
"This is a big one, just because of the history," Stemm said. "Very rarely do you solve an age-old mystery like this."
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2009 – A series of educational assistance programs administered by the Veterans Affairs Department, commonly called the GI Bill, have helped servicemembers pursue post-secondary learning for decades.
Soon, another program will be added to the mix: The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Bill will be available to qualified individuals Aug. 1.
“We previously administered four major education programs before this bill came along,” Keith M. Wilson, VA’s education service director, said. “The new Post-9/11 GI Bill has different eligibility criteria [and] pays for different types of training.”
The new GI Bill provides three separate types of benefit payments to those who have at least 90 days of aggregate active service after Sept. 10, 2001.
The first type of payment covers tuition and fees equal to what each state’s most expensive state-run school charges for in-state, undergraduate study.
In addition, ...
...an allowance based on the Defense Department’s basic housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents is available as a benefit paid monthly, Wilson said. The housing allowance’s dollar amount depends on the location of the school the servicemember or veteran is attending, he added.
The third benefit is a stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.
“Now, each of those payments is subject to the amount of active duty an individual has,” Wilson said. Eligible people with 36 or more months of active duty will receive 100 percent of the three payments, he said. Those with less than 36 months of active service will receive a prorated amount.
For example Wilson said, someone with 90 days to six months of active service qualifies for 40 percent of each of the three types of payments. The benefits increase with an individual’s amount of active service, and extend to National Guardsmen and reservists who have at least 90 days of active service.
“Previously the Guard and reserve members didn’t really have a stake in the GI Bill per se,” he said. “Now, we have one program that covers both the active duty and the Guard and reserves.”
For those who incur out-of-state tuition, attend a private school, or want to pursue graduate studies but find their tuition and fees above the cap set by the VA, there’s the Yellow Ribbon program.
“The Yellow Ribbon program is a sub-element of the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” Wilson said. “The … program allows schools to enter into an agreement with VA by which the school will waive up to half of the difference of their tuition and fees charges and what the cap is for that state, and VA will match the amount that the school waives.
“It’s basically a supplemental amount of tuition and fees that would be payable to the school,” he added.
Wilson said he thinks the voluntary supplemental program has been well received by schools. He cautioned, however, that the VA still has steps to take before any formal agreements between any institution of higher learning and the VA can take place, including finalizing regulations and setting tuition caps.
“So no school, public or private, that would be interested in the Yellow Ribbon program really has enough information yet to make [the decision to participate],” he said.
It remains to be seen, Wilson said, what effect the country’s current economic situation may have on the Yellow Ribbon program.
“The important thing to remember is that the Yellow Ribbon program is available to all schools,” he said. “[Speculation about] whether or not schools’ financial situations are going to impact their participation or not is a little bit premature. They don’t have all the information they need from us yet.”
More information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, eligibility, and how this new bill could affect those with service prior to Sept. 10, 2001, is available on the Veterans Affairs GI Bill site or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 toll-free. Along with answers to frequently asked questions, visitors to the site will find a link that will allow them to receive updates on the new GI Bill via e-mail as they become available.
Studio Macbeth emails us this clip that will be appearing on The History Channel's "Stealing Lincoln's Body" on February 16th, 2009.
As millions celebrate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln this year, HISTORY™ presents perhaps the last unknown story of our 16th president – the shocking plot to steal his body.
Here is what Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer says:
“The result—an uncanny, believable, realistic, living Lincoln—moving before our eyes as he must have in life, wholly imagined yet based on actual photos—took my breath away. Here is the man who lived, laughed, spoke, walked, for precious seconds practically born again.”
Nice to see some history on the History Channel.
Kicking the rum grog bucket, the U.S. Navy switched to "Bob Smith."
Hoist a "tot" and read about it here