30. April 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Military, War

Or as another Open Saloner called it, some years ago, “The semi-annual national unity game of chicken”; that is the ostentation round of saber-rattling which has been played by North Korea every six months or so since … since the armistice which divided the Norks from the Sorks about the time that I was born. I wrote in 2013;

“The Norks do this every six months, usually when they want to squeeze some concessions out of the outside world. It’s like an overgrown toddler throwing an international temper tantrum. Likely, all of his generals (or uncles, even the generals who are not his uncles) have to go along and make the usual noises and poses for the cameras, in spite of the fact that for all their resplendent ribbon-salad displays – they have not fought an all-out, balls-to-the wall war since 1954. Which war was nearly sixty years and three wars ago, as Americans are counting it, which means that their equipment must be getting pretty worn-out as well as their tactical schemes and field practice for using them – outside the boundaries of a pretty tightly-controlled war game which will allow no margin for making the Kim dynasty’s pet soldiers look bad in any way, shape or form … while they might have been able to buy some new stuff on the international black market – which hints that those drug sales by their diplomatic staff must really be paying off, big-time, and they might actually be able to hit what they might be aiming at, on a good day, depending on what they have purchased, and if their vendors didn’t rob them blind, and if the Chinese actually gave them some of the good stuff … I do believe they can hit Seoul on a good day with their artillery, and kidnap lonely strangers off the beachfront towns in Japan in the wee hours, and possibly come close to hitting Japan with something high-explosive … whacking the continental United States with a ballistic missile is a bit of a chancy prospect.”

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I had an appointment with my primary care health provider at the dot of 9 AM Wednesday morning, down at the primary care clinic at Fort Sam Houston. Some years and months ago, they moved that function from the mountainous brick pile that is the Brooke Army Medical Center, into a free-standing clinic facility on Fort Sam Houston itself. I would guess, in the manner of things, that this clinic facility will undergo some kind of mitosis in about ten years, and split into another several facilities … but in the meantime, this is where I get seen for my routine medical issues … mainly high blood pressure. So; minor, mostly – immediately after retiring, I went for years without ever laying eyes on my so-called primary care provider. A good few of them came and went without ever laying eyes or a stethoscope on me, as well. But this last-but-one moved on, just at the point where he and I recognized each other by sight and remembered each other from one yearly appointment to the next. But once yearly, I must go in and see my care provider, and get the prescriptions renewed, and Wednesday was the day …

Fort Sam Houston – what to say about that place? Historically, it was the new and shiny and built-to-purpose military establishment after the presidio of the Alamo became too cramped, run-down and overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of San Antonio in the late 1870s. I have read in several places, that if the place is ever de-accessioned and turned back to civil authority as the Presidio in San Francisco was, that the inventory of city-owned historic buildings in San Antonio would instantly double. Yes – San Antonio is and was that important. It was the US Army HQ for the Southwest from the time that Texas became a state, the main supply hub for all those forts scattered across New Mexico Territory (which was most of the Southwest, after the war with Mexico), the home of the commander and admin staff for that administrative area. Every notable Army officer from both world wars put in serious time at Fort Sam during their formative military years, and the very first aircraft bought by the Army Signal Corps did demo flights from the parade ground. (I put a description of this in the final chapter of The Quivera Trail.)

But Wednesday morning, I was interested to know if the clinic administration had changed out the pictures of the personnel in the chain of command yet. (Military custom – someplace in the foyer of many units are a set of pictures; President, SecDef, and so on, down to the unit commander and the First Shirt. Part of the materiel which has to be learned in basic training are the names of the various authorities on it. The pictures are for the edification of those of lowly rank who often go for years without ever seeing the higher-ups of their chain of command in person. I went for a year once, without ever seeing my squadron commander, although I think I might have spoken to him on the phone once.) Anyhow, there was a link going around among some of the mil- and veteran blogs to the effect that a number of units had not yet received their official photographs of President Trump and General Mattis – and had filled in with print-outs of some of the more viral meme-portraits of them: President Trump standing on a tank, rolling through a battlefield, and Saint Mattis of Quantico, patron saint of Chaos with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in one hand. I was looking forward in any case to seeing the new pictures, and yes, they did have the new one of President Trump on the wall, but only a sign with the name on it where General Mattis’ picture should be. Ah well – the Army is notoriously humorless and Fort Sam/BAMC is the showplace of Army medicine, but as I walked past the display, I started thinking about how bizarre it all was. I think I first read about Donald Trump in the Village Voice, in the mid-1980s, or perhaps in some other publications in the late 1980s when he and Marla Maples were huuuge tabloid and gossip-column fodder: an almost richer-than-god and bigger than-life real estate developer, flamboyant, combative, crude, even – a hound for publicity even more than for pussy.

And now he is the commander in chief. It’s been like seeing Paris Hilton, or (god save us) one of the Kardashians with a heretofore unheard of skill set, suddenly developing political ambitions, going for it … and getting there. Who on earth would have foreseen that, twenty-five years ago? It’s weirder than anything made up by an author of political novels.
Discuss.

For a moment, as the saying used to go, when I was in. The first part of that truism was, “The military will take care of you.” – This bitter wisdom is now being discovered anew by a number California National Guard troops, who – when they were offered bonuses for re-upping ten years ago, accepted the bonus, reupped and served … and ooops, now it turns out that they weren’t qualified or eligible for said bonus, and the Big Green Military Machine wants the money back. With interest and penalties, it would appear. The Big Military Administrative Machine writes and enforces the rules to suit the needs of the machine – a thing which is screamingly obvious to anyone who ever signed a contract of any sort with the Big Military Administrative Machine. (It was always a point of bitter observation to us overseas, that as the dollar-to-local-currency exchange rate rose or dropped, the military paymaster’s adjustment for that exchange rate lagged or sped up in a manner which invariably screwed the military member living on the local economy. The Big Military Administrative Machine will have their pound of flesh, regardless… And it will not favor the individual military member.)
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I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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The base at Hellenikon was often under siege and sometimes physically so; before, during and after I was stationed there in the early 1980s; regularly once a year when the local national employees went on strike, and blockaded the front gate, and now and again by anti-US and anti-NATO protesters. Although there was a Greek Air Force installation right next to the American base, there was no passage between the two, unlike the base at Zaragoza, where Spanish and American personnel had pretty much free passage between their respective halves of the facility. In the case of striking workers, or hostile protestors at the main – and only entrance – those of us inside the base were stuck there, while those outside were also cut off. Only one year did it become a problem lasting more than a single day – but it was an inconvenience for us all, and particularly frightening for family members.

And I was remembering all of that, this weekend, reading about how Incirlik Air Base – which also used to be called Adana Air Base – was cut off for about a day this weekend, after having commercial power cut off for nearly a week by Turkish civil authorities, in the wake of an attempted coup against a president who strong-armed himself into office by side-stepping the established rules. Because of the deteriorating situation in Turkey, all family members were ordered out at the end of March, 2016; a NEO evacuation, as it used to be and still is termed, for Non-combatant Evacuation Operation. (I used to have to keep current paperwork for an escort for my daughter, in the case of one of these; she would travel with various friends who would deposit her eventually with my parents, while I would stay behind.) Months before, the military quietly stopped facilitating accompanied tours to Incirlik. Currently, according to the bases’ own website, there are about 1,400 American military personnel serving there, with another 400 civilian employees. The dependent schools, teen center, child care center – all are closed; presumably the various employees of same are either evacuated themselves, or enjoying a nice vacation.

Incirlik’s mission and that of the 39th Air Base Wing is, according to the bases’ website, “to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power.” Part of this mission also includes a store of nuclear weapons. The base website is naturally, non-committal about this aspect of their mission. Even if there aren’t any such weapons in the bomb dump at Incirlik, likely there are all kinds of interesting munitions and weapons. Which is all very good and well – but Turkey’s President Erdogan has been loudly accusing the US – and the former USAF commander of Incirlik – of plotting and assisting with the failed coup. The commander of the Turkish Air Force assets at Incirlik is reported to have asked the US for asylum, which was refused; the man is now under arrest, as part of the purge of Erdogan’s political enemies. I have read here and there that those American military assigned to the base are confined to the base itself; considering Erdogan’s incendiary accusations, probably a wise move.

As for what now – like Will Rogers of blessed memory, all I know is what I read in the newspaper, or on-line at various sites. But the nightmare visioning that woke me up several times this weekend was of a full-on mob attack on Incirlik’s American sector, on the order of the Benghazi consulate writ large, and with even more weapons and determination … and with the tacit encouragement of Erdogan’s government and Islamist allies.
So much for being a NATO ally. And since our State Department did very little in the case of the Benghazi attack, save for blaming it all afterwards on a mysterious video that hardly anyone had heard of … can one count on the DoD being all that proactive in the event of a serious attack on Incirlik AB? Discuss.

That is one of those military acronyms which everyone who has ever been in the military for longer than – oh, I don’t know – a couple of years? A single hitch in one of the armed services? Whatever; what it means in plain English is “operations security” – and what that entails in the larger sense – drilled in by basic training, refresher training, briefings, a constant dribble of AFRTS spots cautioning the same in 30 second bites, and occasionally by the direct intervention of a supervisor administering a stern reminder – is that you keep your mouth shut about stuff and treat classified material with every care. Even stuff that seems minor, inconsequential, trivial, and is not in point of fact, actually classified. Because a whole lot of little pieces put together by an expert analyst could reveal a pretty big picture; a big and possibly life-threatening picture to someone, or hundreds, even thousands of someones.

I performed this analysis myself in a small way myself, during the build-up to the First Gulf War, through the medium of casually listening to a whole lot of reader spots emanating from our lead station, and some chatter from friends, to the effect that they couldn’t get a reserved room in the casual barracks at that base, all of a sudden. And sure enough – a radio reader spot to the effect that there was limited availability of rooms in a particular transient facility. Another reader, to the effect of restricting automobile traffic on a certain road at that base; checking a map of that base revealed that road was the one in front of that very transient facility. And finally – a notice to the effect that mowing the grass in that particular area was delayed until further notice. Put that together with knowing that transport aircraft were stopping over in large numbers on their way downrange … why, yes; the aircrews were being billeted there, to catch up on sleep before the last long haul to Saudi Arabia. Unclassified? Heck yes – it was on the radio, for gosh sake. Significant information for someone who might want to disrupt the transportation conveyor belt into the theater of conflict? Very possibly.

In the larger sense, OPSEC means paying attention, and especially paying attention to that which is classified information. My own clearance and that of other broadcasters never went any higher than Secret, possibly because we were broadcasters and the powers-that-be feared and probably with good reason (see above) that we would inadvertently blab all kinds of indiscreet stuff into a live microphone. Even at that lowly level, I dealt later on with classified information as the security NCO. The production facility at Hill AFB occasionally worked with materiel which was restricted from general use; yes, we had a secure safe, and now and again I had to serve as courier, collecting classified scripts, video footage and other stuff which I did not actually know what it was – as it was all secured in a sealed envelope – meeting the arriving carrier at the gate at SLC airport, and taking it to the unit and securing it in the safe. I didn’t deal with this materiel often enough to become blasé through familiarity, and I was never in the least bit of doubt that loosing, or compromising classified materiel would have severe adverse effects on my so-called career.

History is chock-full of instances where a break in security – the intercepted message, the boastful bragging to the wrong person, or an outright traitor – spelled disaster and death. History is likewise full of instances where a strategic or tactical secret was kept through heroic efforts on the part of individuals or organizations, an effort rewarded with success. Knowing that people may die, and in job-lots, if you are not careful does tend to concentrate ones’ attention to OPSEC. And this is why that practically every retired military person that I have talked to personally, or commented through social media in the last couple of days, is incandescently furious that Hilary Clinton – for reasons of her own carelessness or convenience – flung down and danced upon every procedure on the books for keeping classified information secure. There are people who have had careers wrecked, been charged, served time for just a hundredth part of the lack of care that she demonstrated in her time as Secretary of State.

But they were none of them Hilary Rodham Clinton. To compromise national security on a grand scale is obviously one of those privileges which rank hath.

(This is another short essay about the mostly mythical South Texas town of Luna City … which Blondie and I have created together. We have a website for Luna City — here, and the first book about it is upon Amazon, here. Official release date is November 12. This is my tenth book in ten years. Yay, me! And WHERE has the time gone?)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid career in the Army in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. But he is the exception; mostly, Lunaites have served a single hitch, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.
The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are of Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – including Joe Vaughn and Chris Mayall – having served in various capacities in more recent operations in the Middle East.
There is not much need in Luna City for very elaborate observances of Veteran’s Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day … but in the main, the most notable civic event marking the eleventh day of the eleventh month is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks. The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip Top which sometimes serves as an overflow parking lot during Founder’s Day, six weeks before.
The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Veteran’s Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish … and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Veteran’s Day in Luna City.

10. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, History, Military

I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.

The expected fate of American and Allied soldiers in an invasion of the Japanese mainland was only part of it, an aspect which tends to be forgotten in the afterglow of the mushroom cloud. There were Allied civilians involved as well, and their fates were also tied up in use of the atom bomb. With the passage of time, memory of the realities of WWII in the Pacific for people who were actually present have dimmed in memory as that generation passes. There is a kind partial amnesia in certain quarters, a tendency to forget that conflict between the Allies and the Japanese was knock-down and drag out brutal, completely unscathed by any pretense of observing the so-called rules of war; that white flags would be honored, that prisoners and internees would be treated humanely, according to the Geneva Convention, the Red Cross would be respected – all these and a number of other war-making conventions were flung down and danced upon, beginning with on Day One – as far as Americans were concerned – with a sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.

Germany may very well have been run by a murderous Nazi gang headed by a demented paper-hanger and failed artist, Germans may have referred to disparagingly as Krauts, and lampooned in the movies and pop music by cut-ups like Charlie Chaplain and Spike Jones, but as far as Americans were concerned, they at least made an effort to honor the rules of war when it came to all the Allies save the the Russians. They had a certain amount of grudging respect as an enemy but a mostly honorable one – until the concentration camps and indisputable evidence of the Final Solution were uncovered at the end of the war. With the Japanese, there was no such mutual courtesy extended, no quarter offered and none given or expected from the very first. Poisonously racist attitudes and assumptions were openly demonstrated by all parties concerned, and the Japanese were more than equal in demonstrated bigotry towards all non-Japanese. Initially welcomed as liberators from the colonial powers all over south-east Asia, they had made themselves so detested for their brutality that by 1945 returning Westerners had local allies who hated the Japanese more than their one-time colonial masters.

I had read that initially those horrifying reports of the treatment of American and Filipino POWs on the Bataan Death March which leaked out through a handful of fortunate escapees were suppressed as a matter of national security, to avoid damaging morale on the home front. It was easier, in those days of written letters, telegrams and a few radio broadcasts, to keep a lid on everything but rumors. Of rumors and fears there were plenty all across the United States, Australia and Great Britain; those countries and a handful of others saw thousands, hundreds of thousands of civilian and military citizens – nurses, missionaries, soldiers, businessmen, colonial authorities, expatriates, and their wives and children – simply vanish into the black hole of the Japan administered Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere after the fall of Singapore, Malaya, Borneo, the Philippines, Hong Kong and those European enclaves in China. Few if any letters or contact, no reassurance from the Red Cross that their people were alive, safe and well for more than three and a half years; fears and rumors abounded. If those military and civilian internees were still alive, they were not safe and – increasingly as the war ground on to a bitter end – not well, either.

In a museum in Britain sometime in our wandering summer of 1976 – was it Carlisle? Salisbury? York, maybe? One of those little local museums, with a case of artifacts given over to the relics of the local regiment, with dusty embroidered colors, and little Victoria sweet-tins, and souvenir hardtack crackers adorned with poems in careful copperplate handwriting. This museum had a long picture of an entire company of soldiers; one of those formal things with four rows of men and officers standing on risers. Everyone who has ever served has been in at least one picture of that sort, but this one had a sad distinction; the entire company, fifty or so, were captured in the fall of Singapore… and none survived to the war’s end. They were sent to work on the Burma-Siam Railway, and among the museum’s relics was a metal measure about the size of a 12-ounce can. It was used, so said the card underneath, to measure out the daily ration of water and rice for the slave labor set by the Japanese to work on the railway. And that was what they got, day in, day out, doing hard physical labor in the tropics … just that little rice and water. The saying about the Burma-Siam railway after the war was there was a man dead for every sleeper laid, the whole length of it: POW, internee, or native civilians pressed-ganged into the service of the Japanese.

POWs and internees were routinely starved, forced into hard labor, denied any kind of effective medical treatment save what internee doctors and nurses could provide, spitefully prevented from communicating with the outside world, or keeping any kind of diary or record at all, subject to the most vicious punishments – up to and including murder in a revoltingly gruesome variety of ways – for the most trivial offenses or often none at all. Transported to Japan itself, to labor in mines and factories, POWs were loaded like cattle, into the holds of transport ships; men went insane, and tragically, died when the ships were bombed and torpedoed by the Allies. There are also stomach-churning accounts of POWs used as guinea-pigs in Japanese medical experiments, and vivisected while alive and un-anesthetized. The estimate is that 27% of the Allied POWs held by the Japanese perished in captivity, as opposed to 2-3% held by the Germans.

Civilian internees fared hardly better; this account of women and children interned in Sumatra – most of them shipwrecked in the Java Sea while escaping Singapore by sea in the last days before the surrender – reckon that about half perished in captivity. American internees in the Philippines fared a little better, although most survivors of Santo Tomas and Los Banos estimate they were about two weeks from dying of starvation when they were liberated. “Thou shalt not kill,” runs the bitter couplet, “But need not strive, officiously, to keep alive.” Most military and civilian survivor accounts concur on the time frame of survival; that is, if the Japanese didn’t massacre them all first, as they did at Palawan. At best, writer-historian Gavin Daws estimates that the subsequent life-expectancy of the survivors was reduced by ten or fifteen years, so severe were long-term health problems resulting after three years of near-starvation, exposure to every tropical and deficiency disease known to medical science, and the psychotic brutality of the Japanese camp guards.

During the war, this was not something much talked about, except in the vaguest sort of way – no spreading despair on the home front. Immediately afterwards, the most popular accounts of captivity, such as Agnes Newton Keith’s Three Came Home (1947) give the impression that it all was quite dreadful, but skimmed over the specifics. Many survivors wanted more than anything to just forget, to put it out of mind, and have a normal life again, and many more just could not talk about it at all, save to those few comrades who had been there with them. It is only in the last few years that I have really noticed the horrific accounts being published, and historical memory uneasily jousting with political correctness. But it is clear – that the total surrender of the Japanese after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved civilian internees and POWs alike.

… and then turn around and whine because some cis-male said something, or looked something, and I feel so … so threatened! Look, girls…ladies … possessor of a vagina or whatever you want to be addressed as this week in vernacular fashion; can you just please pick one attitude and stick to it? Frankly, this inconsistency is embarrassing the hell out of me (sixty-ish, small-f feminist in the long-ago dark days when there was genuine no-s*it gender inequality in education, job opportunities and pay-scales to complain about and campaign for redress thereof). This is also annoying to my daughter, the thirtyish Marine Corps veteran of two hitches. The Daughter Unit is actually is very close loosing patience entirely with those of the sisterhood who are doing this “Woman Powerful!-Woman Poor Downtrodden Perpetual Victim!” bait and switch game. So am I, actually, but I have thirty years experience in biting my tongue when it comes to the antics of the Establishment Professional Capital-F Feminist crowd.

See – it’s an either-or proposition. Either you are strong, capable, intelligent and have thick enough of a skin or at least a toleration and sufficient understanding of the world in general, and the male of our sex in particular to forge your way enthusiastically through the world, throwing off the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, the occasional sex-based misunderstanding, the overheard crude joke, the inability of many of the males of our species to attend to details of housekeeping or good organizational order, and their juvenile enthusiasm for sexual congress under circumstances and with co-conspirators which – the less said of that the better. That is the attitude that my daughter and I personally favor; we take no stick, and when someone – male or female tries it, we hand it back face to face with generous interest. That’s what strong, capable and intelligent women do.

It’s either that or the conventions of womanhood which held sway in popular Victorian culture. That is – one who is too fine, too delicate and too gentle to endure exposure, even by the slightest suggestion to any of the above … like tweeting a picture of two guys overheard making a crude joke and setting off an internet meltdown which resulted in firings, internet shamings, death threats and everything but the burning of Atlanta. Seriously, what Ms Richards overheard and took exception to – essentially complaining to a wide audience that “Ohhh – those awful men were making me feel threatened! Make them stop!” was relatively mild when compared to some of the conversations I overheard (or sometimes participated in) while in the military. I can only imagine the degree of absolute meltdown if Ms Richards had heard some of them … and yes, both my daughter and I have often been the only woman, or one of a handful of women in a sea of men.

So, strong, capable and equal … or frail, sensitive and desperate for that fainting couch; pick one or the other and stick to it consistently. At the very least, don’t talk like one, and act like the other. It only confuses the guys and embarrasses the heck out of women like me.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz)

… I think. My crystal ball is out for re-calibration so I cannot be absolutely certain, but I’ve been expecting a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophes for some time now. There have been murmurings for the last year regarding the probability of Ebola spreading out of Africa. And now it has happened – a person sick with it has exposed lord only knows how many other people on his way back to Dallas from a visit to Africa. Which is horrific enough, but just getting started. Meanwhile, an enterovirus which attacks the respiratory tract and in some instances has an effect very like that of polio has been here for some months, sickening children – especially those who have respiratory difficulties. It has already killed five – this ailment which was rare in the US heretofore but apparently fairly common in Central America. The supposition is that it was carried into the US with the government-assisted influx of child illegal immigrants earlier this year. Were I the parent of a school-aged child in a public school and exposed to this virus – as many children doubtless have been – I would be furious, or even more furious than I am; that third-world diseases are being casually dispersed throughout communities in the United States for some .deliberate purpose; a Cloward-Pivening of the system, to pack the Democrat party voting rolls, undermine the labor market, or perhaps just to crash those local communities where the illegals have been parked. (Yes, illegal immigrant – I’ll say so and be damned, sir!)

For two years and more I’ve been expecting race-riots in those American cities hardest hit by the double-blow of single-party machine politics and the complete inability of the Obama administration to actually meet any of the sky-high expectations of him held among the black underclass. So, they got to feel good about themselves for a couple of years, before realizing they are worse off than ever. Can’t be Obama’s fault, of course; it must be all that white raaaaacism. St. Louis looks to be ground zero – again – at this point in time. The race card is about played out with me, having known too many good, hardworking and patriotic citizens of color – but I am about to the point of getting that bumper sticker that says, “I wish my ancestors had picked their own damn cotton.” Of course, my American ancestors didn’t grow cotton, and were in fact fiercely abolitionist Quakers. I suspect even the most racially tolerant among them would be loosing patience with the black thug underclass these days. I know now that many of those who comment on various blogs – about the only source on incidents of the knock-out game or flash-mob lootings – are loosing patience as well. So much for content of character, rather than color of skin.

And the Middle East is well-afire now, with ISIS/ISIL/The New Caliphate gleefully pouring more gasoline on the bonfire, and posting regular videos on social media of beheadings and mass executions, recruiting wanna-be-jihadis from across the United States and from Europe. Meanwhile, the Kurds and the Israelis stand nearly alone, while it seems that it is more important that American troops be sent to Africa, either to assist local governments in fighting the Ebola epidemic or to catch it themselves and bring it back to the stateside military units and their families. Hard to tell what the intent of the Obama administration is, these days; one hesitates to attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence or stupidity.

One is reduced to eying the actions of the federal government with wary suspicion these days. After this – and other actions, to include Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, the NPS deliberately barricading national monuments and the ongoing disaster that is Obamacare – who besides those who serve, enable and benefit directly from it can claim with a straight face that our federal government is not motivated by greed and outright malice towards us?

Discuss.
(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

(Wherein I meditate upon the relationship between military members and veterans, and the commander-in-chief – present and most recent last.)
I was not a voter especially enamored of establishing a ruling class, so I was not all that enthused about Bush 2. In the 2000 elections I was considerably annoyed that it was an unedifying choice between the scions of two long-established political families. I thought it was not a good omen, redolent of hereditary politics and an established aristocracy – and that there was not that much to choose between them. At this point Al Gore had not displayed anything of his hypocritical and self-serving fixation on so-called ‘global warming’ – and I basically flipped a coin. But as it turned out, post 9-11, my daughter’s commander in chief was Bush 2, and as it also turned out, his respect and consideration for the troops in wartime was a rock of constancy. To quote the line from the TV series Sharpe’s Rifles, “There are two kinds of officers, sir: killin’ officers and murderin’ officers. Killin’ officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin’ officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose – for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag.” Bush-2 was the second sort – he might get you killed, but it would have been for a serious purpose. (Since this is a discussion of how our presidents appear to, or appeared in the past to relate to successive commanders-in-chief, I will not be drawn into a sidebar discussion regarding the wisdom of making war in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2002.)

My daughter and I both had the same opinion of Bush 2 with regard to the military; one of affectionate and mutual respect, which he has carried on in his private life. I suppose one of the best examples of that was on the occasion of his surprise visit to Baghdad in 2003 – when he appeared, the roar of applause and cheers was unforced and spontaneous. (No, it was not a plastic turkey.) One still reads now and again of Bush 2 and Laura B. still quietly coming to meet returning troops at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, or hosting disabled soldiers at private events and marathon mountain bike rides at the ranch, and mention is made now and again of their quiet and relatively unpublicized visit to Fort Hood after the Hassan shooting spree.

Which brings us to the present commander in chief, a man who has perfected the fine art of returning a military salute with a Styrofoam coffee cup in his saluting hand. I’d join in the outrage over this, but really – the man is only behaving in the manner that we have come to expect from him in regards to the military. He appears to like the perks, the toys such as drones and Air Force 1, the deference and being able to whistle up a uniformed rent-a-crowd at any moment, but he doesn’t possess the least particle of understanding of or respect for military tradition. One gets a sense that it’s a perfunctory effort – and that military people really aren’t quite real to them; just automatons, all dressed alike, to be dispatched to Africa because of an Ebola epidemic, to Benghazi to not defend the consulate, or to hold an umbrella … whatever. While he has bestowed honors for valor on individuals at White House ceremonies, and Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden have now and again made a stab at a show of support and concern for dependent family members, the sense is inescapable that the Obama administration is just going through the minimum motions required for a favorable photo op.

Although Obama has made a superficial good showing with military-oriented events, they seem to be scheduled less and less often. I suppose it is a bit of a thrill for the junior troops come through a base and have a meet’n’greet with them. As indifferent as I was to Jimmy Carter way back then, I would have appreciated a visit from the commander in chief – I might even have been rather thrilled to do an interview for FEN, if it had been allowed. More telling, I think is the reception that Obama got, at a speech last month before attendees at the American Legion convention. That was an audience of veterans of all vintages – and the largest portion of them all but sat on their hands and listened with stone-faced courtesy. One might almost feel sorry for a speaker whose presentation meets with such a cold reception, but … well, his is the administration whose Department of Homeland Security head had to walk back from a report which painted disgruntled veterans as likely recruits for terrorist organizations, and was reported to have briefly considered John Kerry, of Winter Soldier anti-Vietnam war protest fame as Secretary of Defense. That such a nomination was even considered sufficiently enough to make it into the Washington paper of record should be proof enough of the veiled contempt in which this commander in chief holds for the larger part of those citizen-defenders who make up the US military.

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees! – R. Kipling

I started my first stretch in the military as Jimmy Carter was elected and sworn into office. I did not think anything of him, particularly – either pro or con, although being a bit of a snob, I did think it was distinctly juvenile of him to be known as Jimmy, rather than James. Boys are called by the diminutive; men ought to go by their proper names. The one big issue that I did hold against him for most of my first hitch in the military was when he declined a military spending bill which would have provided for the rebuilding of the Misawa AB high school, which at the time of my assignment there was housed in three pre-WWII buildings which had once been Imperial Japanese Army stables. On hot days, those buildings still smelt faintly of horse, and the students had to use the base gym for their PE classes. I recollect that there was grumbling resentment among the senior NCO cohort (and likely among the officers , too) whose teenaged dependents attended the school, to the effect that that Amy Carter did not attend classes in 70+ old shacks that smelled of ancient horse-shit. The Iran hostage situation and his limp-wristed response to it didn’t develop until later. And Carter – that bundle of mind-numbing sanctimony and anti-Semitism – was gone by the time I was done with that first tour, having pretty much disappointed everyone who assumed that having been a wartime Naval Academy graduate and serving USN officer would have been good for something when it came to being a commander in chief.

There was Ronald Reagan. Whom, I must confess, I did not at the time totally appreciate. The massacre of Marines in Lebanon weighed on us all, and the whole Hollywood-B-movie actor thing was a bit of am embarrassment. Not as much as the election of a dilettante Chicago community organizer would be, but then I am getting ahead of myself. So– save for that one incident – RR pretty much left the military community unscathed, if I recall correctly. He made all the right gestures and speeches, and a fair number of what we only later came to recognize as smart moves. He appreciated the military, in a rather understated way. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – that unforeseen miracle was in a large part his doing. The cold war menace seemed to dissolve, like mist in the morning, and everyone in the military heaved a sigh of relief. I’d guess there were at least two generations, maybe three, who had expected to see the Russian Army come through the Fulda Gap, and had standing arrangements to see their dependents evacuated from Western Europe in that event. I was one of them.

And so we came to Bush One; a comrade that I served with in Korea had come straight off the White House/Presidential protection element. He adored the senor Bushes, especially Barbara, and to hear him tell it, the senior Mrs. Bush was a fond grandmotherly figure to the agents. She even called him “Timmy” – rather rich, considering that he was one of those six-foot tall built-like-a-concrete-traffic-bollard guys. It turned out that peace did not descend at once, although bases in Western Europe closed right and left. Bush One – he struck us generally as a decent old stick, a for-real combat veteran. I guess that we could say that he did well by the military, as my friend Timmy could attest.

So – on to the Clintons; Timmy good a good look at the whole clan early on, thought they were trashy, and applied for a reassignment. There were stories in print and through the grapevine that Hilary was snotty beyond belief towards the uniformed military. The original Sgt. Stryker – who worked as maintenance crew on the presidential flights during the Clinton administration – allowed on one occasion long afterwards that the only two people associated with it who appeared capable of gracious courtesy towards the Air Force-2 staff were Tipper Gore and Louis Freeh. I myself never had the privilege or pleasure of coming anywhere near Washington DC, or the Pentagon during my time in active service. I had retired the year that the Lewinsky scandal broke, but I was still in touch with friends who still were on active duty. Most of those friends –mid-to-senior NCO ranks, and a handful commissioned officers – were all disgusted; more than disgusted – embarrassed and simmeringly angry. I recollect reading a story in the Air Force Times regarding a number of senior officers being reprimanded for commenting on Bill Clinton’s sexual morals – or lack of same – at a dining-in. A person of senior rank having a sexual relationship with a very-much-younger subordinate would and has gotten a good few military members disciplined or sacked. Seeing the commander in chief get away with it … well, nothing more calculated to drive home the lesson that there is one set of standards for the ruling class, another for the ruled. And in this present time, the military of whatever rank are the ruled.

(to be continued with Bush 2 and the current C-in-C. Also – crossposted at chicagoboyz.net)

It’s a German word – it means “frightfulness“ – and it was used, if memory serves and a brief internet search conforms – it was a sort of shorthand for the reprisals exacted by the German Army against civilians during both wars. If not an actual German military field policy in WWI, it had certainly become one by WWII; brutally persecute, torture and execute civilians, and make certain that such horrors became well-known through extensive documentation within the theater of operations, and outside of it. To encourage the others, as the saying goes, but on a grand scale – to make war on a civilian population, once all effective military have departed the area – in hopes of cowing everyone who sees and hears of what brutality has been meted out on the helpless, and especially the helpless.
Was it an explicit policy of the German armies to apply the principle of schrecklichkeit – by that name or another – in the field in those wars?

Whether or not dictated from the highest levels, it did have the desired effect of discouraging armed resistance … at first, anyway. Acts of extreme cruelty against civilians were definitely committed, beginning in Belgium in 1914 – and had a short-term effect in that Belgian resistance to the German juggernaut was, to put it mildly, discouraged with Teutonic efficiency. However, the long-term result was a black mark against Germany, in its conduct of that war which resounded for years and was revived again with the record of Nazi atrocities in the second.

Which brings me to reports of the horrors being committed by the Islamic radicals of ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever they are calling themselves, as they sweep into Mosul and proclaim the establishment of a renewed caliphate. I have not seen much of this reflected in the mainstream media yet – but the worst excesses are seeping out, through minor publications, blogs and social media. Of course, without all those layers of editors and fact-checkers, such excesses could be really happening, or the work of propagandists of varying degrees of sophistication … but for the fact that ISIS/ISIL make no bones about boasting of what they are doing, and sharing the pictorial and video evidence. This link was posted on Samizdata by M. Simon – and if you have a low nausea threshold, don’t go any farther than a couple of pictures. I post the link only so that readers will have an idea of exactly how horrible this situation has become. I await for the inevitable lefty-luvvie comparison to Abu Ghraib, of course.

There are likely two rationales for practicing the 21st century Islamic version of schrecklichkeit in Northern Iraq; the ISIS/ISIL fighters are extreme sadists with the blessings of an ideology which encourages them to do what they enjoy most – torturing and murdering infidels – and bragging about it. And secondly, this demoralizes those unfortunate enough to be in their way, and discourages resistance. For a time, anyway. But schrechlichkeit has a short shelf life, once those whom it is practiced on realize that there is no way out, and only one way to fight back. Eventually, as the Allies discovered in the Pacific in WWII – there comes the understanding that those who have so relished inflicting cruelty on the helpless deserve no mercy at all, and will receive none, once the tables are turned upon them. Surrender is not an option at this point – and in future neither will mercy.
Discuss.
(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Supposedly the red corn poppies that grow all over fields in Europe grow particularly well in soil that has been plowed, dug up, or otherwise extensively disturbed. There were many small fields around the outskirts of Zaragoza, and the little village of Garrapinillos where poppies grew, in some seasons and fields so thickly as to show nothing but red.

Most experts are certain that the association between WWI and blood-red field poppies was established because of the poem by John McCrae, which begins, “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row…” and which became almost immediately popular upon being first published in the second year of the war. Well before the end of the war, the visual of red poppies was inextricably bound to the notion of wartime service and sacrifice in Canada, Britain and the United States. At the end of the war, it was adopted by the American Legion as a symbol of remembrance, Frenchwomen sold silk poppies to raise money for war orphans, and the British Legion adopted the practice of wearing red poppies during the period leading up to Remembrance Day. To this day, the sale of artificial poppies benefits various programs to support veterans and active duty military in England, Canada and the United States.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that war, and one of the most eye-catching temporary memorials is an installation at the Tower of London, where the dry moat will be filled with 800,000 ceramic red poppies, spilling down from one of the outer tower windows – one poppy for every Commonwealth casualty over four bitter years of blood and sacrifice. There are only about an eighth of the total installed so far … but the pictures are riveting. The installation – called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red will be finished by Remembrance Day – November 11.

Iraq Embassy Evac

A Ramirez cartoon, lifted from a commenter at Rantburg who posted it in a discussion of the evacuation of the US Embassy in Iraq.

It has amused me for years, how ordinary civilians, media figures and scriptwriters for movies and TV shows can believe so strongly that the military is one big monolithic secret-keeping machine; something which happens on a base, post, or on the front lines will never, ever see the light of day in the larger world and that the military commands can keep something quiet for years or decades. If it is something tippy-top secret, and know to only a few – well, yes, in that case. But quite often something – a program, a wild idea, a mission—remains unknown largely on account of lack of interest on the part of the larger world or the establishment news media organs. The military is actually far from being the big monolithic secret-keeping machine, once you get away from the deliberately highly-classified, ultra-secret-squirrel stuff.

During George Bush’s second term, the reporter Seymour Hersh was given to go around giving lectures to anti-war audience claiming that all kinds of horrible massacres were being perpetrated by American troops; massively violent stuff on the order of My Lai in the Middle East, involving scores of victims and whole companies of U.S. Army and Marine troops. Bodies stacked up by the bale, according to Mr. Hersh, who was at least careful enough not to commit these incredible tales to print. Mr. Hersh, I think, has the monolithic military secret-keeping meme on the brain. The atrocities which he was alleging to have happened among front-line troops in Iraq just could not have happened, not without a lot of personnel inside of the military family knowing. The truth is that the possibility of keeping something out of general knowledge in the military world expands geometrically with the number of people involved, directly or peripherally. And nothing much happens in the military world stays secret for long; yes, the knowledge of certain matters may not seep out into the ken of the greater public and the news establishment professionals – but that’s because military members are routinely briefed about OPSEC (operations security) and they don’t spill to outsiders, much. Something that may be common knowledge to those inside the family, as it were, may go for years without attracting undue attention or interest on the part of those outside of it.

Mr. Hersh and other fantasists might well have had an easier job in peddling incredible stories of military malfeasance in pre-internet days; it would take months and years for allegations to make the rounds and for those inside the military family to even become aware of them and respond – and then, of course, it was already over. History had been engraved in stone, as it were; set there by being repeated over and over. Any debunking was too late and too little. But the internet and a generation or two of tech-savvy and social media troops have tightened the OODA loop considerably. It took a good few decades for many of the established memes regarding Vietnam veterans – sullen draftees, drug-abusing, unstable, baby-killing losers – to be debunked by researchers like B. G. Burkett, and even now that meme refuses, zombie-like to lay down and die. It twitches now and again, over the last ten years or so, but refreshingly, military members and veterans today are instantly aware and more than willing to swing into social media action to debunk sensational accusations and to unmask fraudulent veterans – or even to speak out when there is a controversy such as Bowe Bergdahl’s status as a POW or as a deserter. Which brings me around to the thing about secrets. Among the milblogs like Blackfive there was no secret about there being something hinky regarding the circumstances of his disappearance from his duty station in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a big thing, but it came up now and again; one of those open secrets among the milblog family and commenters. Very likely, everyone that he served with and under knew that he was a flakey, unmotivated soldier, and after he went under the wire, a deserter as well. But it was one of those open secrets – which, because the Obama administration didn’t care to look before they leaped into a deal, a distraction and a show and tell in the Rose Garden, has now come back to bite – heavily.

Couldn’t happen to nicer people, I would say; except that whatever does happen next, in the wake of freeing five upper-level operators from Guantanamo, will very likely not land on the Obama administration or it’s high-level flunkies. Most likely, it will land on the rest of us, starting with those in the uniformed services.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

26. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Military, War

American Cemetery at Chateau Thierry (Picture by Sgt, Mom, August, 1985)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen)

27. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, Good God, History, Military, World · Tags:

Found through a comment at Neo-Neocon.
A reminder of what Britain used to be.

Not to speak ill of the dead. But in the case of Fred Phelps, of the loathsome Westwood Baptist Church (which actually had no connection whatsoever with the formal Baptist church establishment save the name, and that was doubtless a bit of self-serving publicity. I’d lay any amount of money that the regular Baptists would have liked to have paid a pretty penny to make him promise to call his nasty little sect anything but Baptist … where was I? Oh, back to the convoluted sentence…) I could be tempted to make an exception.

God is infinitely merciful, and He is the ultimate judge, so I’ll leave it to Him to decide if Fred Phelps should be eternally deep-fried like a basket of French fries in the everlasting boiling lake of Hell … but I would argue that he richly deserves that fate for several reasons: One – he and his loathsome little sect coldly and deliberately used the pain and grief of other people. This was either to torment them for their own micro-sectarian jollies, as a means of getting in front of the TV cameras – or provoking outraged mourners into laying violent hands upon their disgusting and manipulative persons for the purposes of extorting money out of them by means of a lawsuit. All three reasons are sufficiently loathsome, IMHO, to justify hellfire. This judgment is not mine to make. It was not theirs, either, but this realization didn’t seem to instill any degree of Christian humility in the members of the cult.

Two – their actions noted in the above paragraph certainly did not reflect any credit on the Protestant denominations, or on American Christians, generally. Likely, they served to drive ordinary people away from an understanding of God and his many mansions.

On the other hand, I am told that Fred Phelps was a long-time Democrat party activist. So he can and probably will go on voting. There is life after death, you know.

Left to myself, I don’t think I would have watched Enlisted, but Blondie insisted, saying it was pretty darned funny a show, and had the right ‘feel’ for a comedy about the present-day military. Or at least – the US military as it was a couple of years ago. (What it is becoming as of this very moment, I have no idea.) So, I we watched the first three or four episodes together, and darned if she isn’t right. It’s a funny, rapid-fire comedy about three brothers at an Army post in Florida, which is affectionate, respectful and knowledgeable about military life … something that I swear hasn’t been seen on network television since Gomer Pyle, USMC or No Time for Sergeants, although perhaps Major Dad took some detours through that route.

Blame me for being jaded, as regards television; a couple of years ago I realized that most shows were just the same-old, same-old, served up one more time. Same old doctor-lawyer-cop triad, same old mystery twist I had seen twenty times before, same old cliché characters, dressed up with a few 21st century attire and attitudes…

All in all, Enlisted is well worth watching – and with luck, perhaps it will last more than just one season. There haven’t been any sudden nasty thwacks of conventional political correctness, so far. And we appreciate a nice little grace note at the end of every episode; service pictures of various kin of people having something to do with show production. Who would have thought it – people working on a TV show about the military life actually having a familial connection to the military? Seriously, that alone is worth a mention.

By the way, I am not the least interested in the Academy Awards. Although … I do have a mild academic interest in what is awarded Best Picture (purely for trivial knowledge points in future), and which actress wears the fugliest dress on the red carpet. Other than that – the last picture I went to see in a theater was the latest installation of The Hobbit, and the last before that was the first installation of the Hobbit.

PS – Enlisted does have a Facebook page. Go ahead and like. You know you want to.

Sigh – now that the story of this particularly classless young Army troop has gone all the way around the world, mayhap it’s time for me to weigh in. Look, young Private Torkwad – having to stand at attention at 5 PM, or whenever the official end of the duty day is marked with the lowering of the flag and the sounding of taps – is an established custom on military bases. If caught in the open at those times, stand and render, if in an automobile, pull over and sit at attention. This is the proper procedure, and those who are cognizant of it are pretty well hep to the timing of the day. No, there is no particular shame to neatly time your errands while around and about on post/base to be indoors at 5 sharp; most sharp young troops figure this out within a year or two of going on active duty.

(My daughter figured it out within days of her first overseas at Iwakuni, where the 5 PM retreat involved not just taps, but also playing the US national anthem, the Japanese national anthem, the US Navy anthem and the USMC Hymn. Twenty minutes at least of rigid attention, facing in the direction of the flagpole.) They also figure out that making a flagrant dash for the nearest door at the first notes is obvious, crass, and extremely disrespectful of custom and tradition. Being observed to do so will draw an attitude adjustment session, either impromptu and on the spot by any NCO or officer observing that action, or in your commander/NCOIC’s office later. But going to far as to post pictorial evidence of this on social media goes way beyond all that into unexplored depths of witless self-regard.

See here, Private Torkwad, let me explain it to you in simple terms. When you are in uniform, you are seen as a representative of the military. You are essentially on duty – even if it’s your own Facebook page. Even if you are not formally assigned to the post public affairs office, you still represent the military in the eyes of civilians. Your actions reflect upon the military no less than yourself … and believe me; you have outed yourself as immature, borderline illiterate, extremely self-centered, and appear to take more care of your makeup than your responsibilities as a member of the military. In the pre-social media era, no one would have been aware of this outside your immediate chain of command, and frankly, no one else would have much cared. You would have been reprimanded, and perhaps learned from the experience and gone on to become a stellar young troop and a good example of what the American armed forces can be. Probably just about everyone who ever put on a uniform has done things – reckless, potentially embarrassing and ill-considered things – which by the grace of god, were not a matter of public record.

Console yourself, Private Torkwad, with the knowledge that you are not the only troop ever to screw up. However, now that the matter of your particular screw-up has become of passing interest outside your immediate chain of command, the repercussions will be if not more severe, possibly more personally embarrassing. The internet, dear Private Torkwad, is forever, and everywhere, so do consider this, the next time you post a picture of yourself in uniform to the internet. My own advice to you in this matter is to say no more to anyone (especially in your chain of command) than, “It’s my fault, I screwed up, I’m sorry, and it won’t ever happen again.” Repeat as often as necessary. You’ll be a better troop for it.

Always loved Mark Knopfler’s music, with and without Dire Straits. Enjoy

Sgt Celia copyCuriosity led me to look up the history of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service – from which I parted company about two and a half years before I retired from the military. I found a couple of names I recalled – a guy who was a baby airman when I knew him, now a master-sergeant and instructor at the military broadcaster training school, which amused the hell out of me. Well, someone has to do that – just that I had never seen him as having that potential at all. Frankly, I’m still surprised there still is an Armed Forces Radio and Television, what with the international reach of satellite radio and TV these days. For all of me, the military information mission could be folded up and inserted as needed as public service announcements and segments into regular commercial satellite radio and television programs beamed overseas.

Oh, I had fun for a time with various assignments in my career field, and didn’t bring down any particular discredit on the various outlets I was assigned to, unlike some that I could mention, but the bald truth of it is that it was a dying career field, and moreover, one which had an unenviable reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out. Add in the fact that you were guaranteed to spend long stretches overseas or in remote locations, and any assignments back in CONUS were guaranteed to be very, very short ones … it was only natural that the appeal of working in a in that field would wear thin after a while. I looked around one day, when I had about fifteen years total active federal military service, and realized that every station manager I had ever worked for had cracked up in some spectacular manner, either physically or emotionally. There was the one who tried to commit suicide – twice – the one who barely survived the heart attack and the quadruple bypass which ensued, the one who had to work several outside jobs to keep up with the alimony and child support for all of his ex-wives, a handful who were serious alcoholics, the one who tried to stiff the US government with a false claim on his travel voucher … it went on, and on.

Reflecting on this dismaying tendency, I concluded that it was because of a particular kind of stress inherent in having a management position of the kind that broadcasters did. There was an enormous amount of responsibility, but no hands-on effective control. That, so I was told in several professional development courses that took over the years, was guaranteed to produce a high level of stress. One had to see that certain tasks were performed – there were so many hours of live programming produced by the staff, so many spots and readers, that so many hours of television programming were aired – but the means of ensuring that it all happened were all severely limited. One had to operate within the constraints imposed by the supply chain, the transport chain, the station’s individual technological capabilities, peculiarities of the host nation (some of which – notably Greece – were flat-out insane), the personnel system, plain old human nature, and the fact that most stations were tiny tenant units on a larger base. Throw in the demands of a distant headquarters – whose demands were quite often contradictory when they weren’t nonsensical … a good few years of this would begin to tell on the most able, dedicated NCO.

I didn’t see any of these stressors during my breaks from broadcasting, when I worked in the PA shop, or in the military video production service. I saw excellent managers, high morale, an achievable mission, support from higher HQ and realistic expectations of personnel. I got my very-best performance ratings and service citations during those stretches – which to me merely emphasized the dysfunction in the broadcaster organization. I’d have cross-trained in a heart-beat, if I could have, but the high panjandrums of military broadcasting didn’t allow it; you couldn’t even get out to be a recruiter or a DI, which is usually an all-paid-expenses escape with the blessings of your personnel manager. So, I got out of it the only way possible – by bailing at 20 years and never looking back. So did another NCO that I knew – the finest all around broadcaster, manager and leader that I ever worked with; good at everything, which was rather rare (most people had a strong suit of technical skill, administrative wizardry, or leadership, or a combination of any two) – he didn’t make any higher rank than I did. He went into local politics – he’s a city councilman in Plano, Texas these days. I scribble historical fiction. We both got something out of being military broadcasters for a while, but sometimes I do wonder if any other career field would have done better for us.

Hey, boys and girls – lets all join in and support President Obama’s great new project – what about it?

that is apparently unasked by the establishment news outlets … where ARE these oh-so-very principled anti-war celebs? The world waits, y’know.

…the wide wide world of sports is going on here? The IRS trolling for specific information on members of individual American Legion posts, requiring proof of the individual member’s veteran status as a way of pinning local American Legion posts to the wall, for some kind of purpose besides vulgar curiosity … hmm, that’s just what they did to various Tea Party organizations applying for certain exemptions. Asked for terribly specific information … my, who doesn’t think that isn’t going into some enormous database somewhere? Military veterans and retirees, in my humble opinion and experience tend to be rather more to the libertarian-conservative side of the political scale, for a number of reasons, chief of them being that we spent a certain number of years living in a fairly conformist and regimented life …in which most of us (save those initially drafted before the advent of the all-volunteer force) freely volunteered for. But the military experience doesn’t necessarily leave us with a lifetime fondness for living under the watchful eye of a higher authority and having every teeny little jot and tittle of personal lives and conduct scrutinized and counseled over… oh, no, my chickadees. It does not.

Quite often, it inculcates a dislike of all-encompassing chicken-sh*t authority exercised over the minutiae of daily living and a wide streak of defiant independence. Looking back on my service life, I suppose that for me the breaking point came when one of my troops – blessed with living in base housing at a base which shall be unnamed – was called at about mid-morning of an extremely busy work-day by a representative of the base housing office. He had inadvertently left his back door porch light on. Nothing would content the minions who ruled base accommodations but that he drop everything that he was doing, rush home, and turn off the back porch light. Apparently, the housing office felt that a 20-or-so watt bulb burning for another five hours was an insupportable burden. And yes – it is true that the power bill for such did come to the base housing office – but still. I took away from the experience that I would never want to live in base housing, ever. And if I chose to leave a damned 20 watt bulb burning, I would, as long as I was paying for it myself.
The other things that the military experience leaves indelibly imprinted on those who have served is a sense of responsibility, a sense of obligation which runs both ways – what you are obligated to society for, and what, if anything, society owes you – and of possibility. The military veteran’s interpretation of responsibility, obligation and possibility are all, I suspect, anathema to the current administration; I also suspect that their world-view inclines them to believe that getting something changed consists merely of making a great and stinking fuss about that which does not please them – rather like test animals working out the right way to pull the right lever. Eventually the powers that be grumble and randomly or purposefully disgorge a meager pellet of solution.

Veterans are used to getting things done and seeing things through. They are often accustomed to working together in coordinated fashion, able to see the possibilities and to work toward a viable solution, who bring solid experience in real-world planning and coping with unexpected contingencies … well, such people are not much inclined to waste time randomly pulling a lever, but are more interested in direct action … and not playing games of the sort that Thomas Wolfe described as ‘mau-mauing the flack-catchers.’ It must appear to the current administration that organizations formed around veterans – the Legion and the VFW, not to mention any number of smaller and informal groups, or even just groups with a large veteran component, like local Tea Parties, or even the post-WWII Battle of Athens, where a number of veterans coordinated a political response to a viciously corrupt local machine. The DHS appears to consider military veterans as possible potential future terrorist, too – so, one might be forgiven for assuming that this current administration entertains lively fears regarding veterans as a group in opposition, or in at least, potential opposition.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Arizona Flag 1971 Flag, over the Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.