Feb 25, 2009

"Taking Chance" - the HBO film

It’s fair to say that there have been few worthwhile movies coming out of Hollywood about the war in Iraq. Most have been liberal rants directed against George Bush, and with the exception of HBO’s “Generation Kill”, most disappeared quickly from view.

But “Taking Chance” is different, and you need to see it.
In April 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC, came across the name of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a young Marine killed by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province. . Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran with 17 years of military service, requested that he be assigned for military escort duty to accompany Chance’s remains to his family in Dubois, Wyo.

Surprised by the spontaneous outpouring of support and respect for the fallen Marine - from the groundskeepers along the road to the cargo handlers at the airport - Strobl was moved to capture the experience in a journal. His first-person account, which began as an official trip report, gives an insight into the military’s policy of providing a uniformed escort for all casualties.
This is as much a story of the American people’s love and respect for their fallen Marines as it is a story of bringing LCPL Phelps home. It’s powerful it’s emotional, and if you have any sense of gratitude for what our young men and women have done over there, you want to watch “Taking Chance,” and reflect on the reaction of the American people as LtCol Strobl escorted LCPL Phelps back to Wyoming.

And say a quiet prayer for Cpl Justin Noyes, USMC and HM3 Chris “Doc” Anderson, two friends of mine; I trust you both received the same volume of love and respect on your final journey home. Semper Fi.

Date/Time Channel Titl
2/26 12:00 PM HBO2 - West
2/26 3:00 PM HBO2 - WEST
2/26 8:30 PM HBO2 - EAST
2/26 11:30 PM HBO2 - WEST

3/1 2:30 PM HBO - EAST
3/1 5:30 PM HBO - WEST

3/2 12:00 AM HBO - EAST
3/2 12:00 AM HBO LATINO - EAST
3/2 3:00 AM HBO - WEST

Feb 22, 2009

64th Anniversary of the Iwo Jima landing - NYC dinner

The following comes from "Sheamus" who was writing about a dinner held last night at Gallagher's Steak House in New York City, where one of the highlights of the evening was a message from MajGen

"Last night 29 active duty and Marines no longer serving on active duty gathered at Gallagher's Steak House to celebrate and remember the Iwo Jima Campaign. We were blessed to have three brother Marines who fought on that island.

We began the night with a reading of your very moving message. I saw tears roll down the cheek of one of the Iwo vets. I presented each of them with a signed copy. The fun of the evening was to watch the Iwo Marines, all in their eighties, become 19 years old again. You could see the sparkle in their eyes and the spring in their step as they interacted with their younger brothers of today's Corps.

Major Devine and Master Guns Robertson represented you well, the later delivering a very informative presentation of the upcoming support of the 100th anniversary of the NAACP. Majors Jason Smith and Whitley, and Sergeants Major Gary Buck, Heyward and Squires rounded out the active Marines present who work for you.

I need to point out that Sergeant Major Squires above all made the biggest impression on the Iwo Marines. They were astounded by the reverence and respect shown to them by the sergeant major. Bear in mind that during their Pacific Campaigns they never even SAW a sergeant major let alone spoke with one.

Retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs (MOH-Vietnam) graced us with stories of his admiration of Marines and our Corps.

Allen Striffler representing the Iwo vets spoke about D-Day and the night before the invasion. Your could hear a pin drop in the entire dining room. A number of civilians stopped by our tables to say "Thank you!" The Marines took it upon themselves to give their baseball caps to the youngsters in the dining room. I suppose the recruiting effort never stops.

It was another great day to be a Marine. God blessed us when he gave us the opportunity to earn the title.

Thanks for your help and participation with the dinner. You were missed.

Semper Fi,
Cpl Joe


Good evening fellow Marines. I regret not being with you tonight - great food, great company, and a great town. But I am especially sorrowful because tonight you are blessed to enjoy the company of giants - men that fought on Iwo Jima. Today is a very special day in the history of our Corps. Sixty-four years ago today, at 0859, the first assault waves of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima. Before the battle was over, the Marines would suffer 26,000 casualties; 6,000 Marines were killed taking that island.

Twenty-two Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor, the most ever awarded for a single engagement. On an island only 7 1/2 square miles in size, almost 100,000 men were locked in mortal combat. 21,000 Japanese died in place. It is said that for every piece of ground the size of a football field, one Marine was killed and five were wounded. Why do we hold the Battle for Iwo Jima in such reverence? The iconic image of our flag being raised on Mt. Suribachi has become as representative of our Corps as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. It is our War Memorial.

Iwo Jima is the benchmark we Marines use to measure all other battles. In early April of 2003 when the 1st Marine Division was approaching Baghdad, the Assistant Division Commander, BGen John Kelly, was asked by a reporter about the significant task ahead of taking Baghdad. John's reply was classic: "We're Marines. We took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain't shit!" So tonight enjoy yourselves. And always remember, we are Marines. We remain not occasionally faithful, we remain not maybe faithful, we remain not sometimes faithful, but we remain ALWAYS faithful. Semper Fidelis.

Feb 14, 2009

Blackwater Dumps Tarnished Brand Name

Filed at 11:20 a.m. ET, 2/12/09

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Blackwater Worldwide is abandoning its tarnished brand name.

Blackwater officials said Friday its family of two dozen business will now operate under the name Xe (zee), pronounced like the letter ''z.''

The decision comes as part of an ongoing rebranding effort that grew more urgent following a September 2007 shooting in Iraq that left at least a dozen civilians dead.

Blackwater president Gary Jackson said in a memo to employees the new name reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security.

Spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says the company felt the Blackwater name was too closely tied to its security work in Iraq.

Feb 12, 2009

Marine vs. Army Recruiting

As the Army takes the day off to reflect on their recruting "issues", the Marine Corps is ahead of their recruiting numbers every month. In fact, even areas like the northeast United States, which include such wealthly and collge-oriented areas likes Fairfield County, CT., Somerset County, NJ, and Bucks County, PA - the Marines EXCEEDED their mission by 150+ recruits.

Army Recruiting Takes Mandatory Stand-Down
February 12, 2009
Military.com|by Bryant Jordan

Every recruiter in the Army is taking a time out tomorrow. And between mid-March and mid-July, pretty much every other command in the Army will be taking one, as well, all in an effort to help troops, Army civilians and their families deal with the stresses of Army life.

But its the recruiting command -- which has been in the spotlight recently over a rash of suicides and claims of unrealistic pressures put on recruiters -- that will stand down first. On Feb. 13, the command’s leaders will conduct a multi-phase training and education program with an emphasis on dealing with the stresses that could cause a Joe to take his own life.

The time-out will in part be used "to discuss suicide prevention and wellness resources available to the Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and family members in recruiting command," Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith told Military.com.

The command is made up of 38 recruiting battalions and five brigades whose mission it is to bring in new blood for the largest of the four military branches.

While stress on Soldiers and their families is an Army-wide problem, recruiting command saw a string of suicides -- 15 since 2003. Four of the suicides occurred between 2005 and 2008 in the Houston Recruiting Command, a spike that prompted an Army investigation.

That investigation, concluded in January, found that poor leadership, job-related stress, personal and medical problems contributed to the deaths. Army Secretary Pete Geren subsequently ordered the stand down slated for tomorrow, officials said.

While the Army was looking at the Houston Recruiting Command for its investigation, Military.com reported in December that Oklahoma City Command recruiters were dealing with their own stress-related issues, including claims of overly long hours, unrealistic demands by supervisors and the pressure to fudge paperwork to qualify applicants who otherwise would not meet standards.

One of the recruiters who previously talked to Military.com said recently that "the [Army] leadership is not happy [with commanders] blaming the recruiters for the problems, rather than looking at failed policies at company and battalion level."

The Oklahoma City recruiters told Military.com in December they have seen the same kinds of stresses plaguing their colleagues that Houston-area recruiters have been through. Two of the recruiters estimated that at least 30 percent of the roughly 200 recruiters in the Oklahoma City battalion are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Some also are taking drugs illegally to cope with pressures of the job, they said.

While a third recruiter declined to offer an estimate of how many battalion recruiters were self-medicating or on prescription medications, he said he knows "a lot of guys are taking anti-anxiety" meds. Some want to get on the meds, he said, because it helps keep their supervisors "off their backs." An Army spokesman said Dec. 24, in response to a Military.com query, that the Army probably does not track the number of Soldiers on prescription medications.

Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis, the Oklahoma City battalion commander, said in his order for the stand down that his "intent is for commanders at Company and Station level to take the lead and provide information and receive feedback on wellness resources available to Soldiers, civilians and family members" associated with the battalion.

The order, dated Jan. 29, says training will be held at battalion headquarters as well as at the various companies making up the district: Oklahoma City, Lawton, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Tulsa and Texarkana. All training is to be done in person, the order stipulates and facilitated by company commanders.

The training will include video presentations and group guided discussions.

According to a battalion operation order dated Jan. 29, the day-long program will be done in four phases -- leader training, individual training of all recruiters, an open forum led by the unit commander and a climate survey that will be conducted afterwards. The climate survey is to be completed no later than Feb. 17, the order states.

Feb 9, 2009

Afghan Update from ABC News

It's not in-depth, but at least ABC realizes that much of the problem lies with the Karzai regime and his corrupt government. Now, if they'd follow the Marine Corps "Valley Campaign' strategy, the American public would know that there is a viable solution to the Afghan problem:

Afghanistan: Where Things Stand

ABC - World News With Charles Gibson
February 8, 2009

DAN HARRIS: And here’s another huge challenge facing President Obama: What to do about Afghanistan, where today two American soldiers were killed while trying to defuse a bomb in Helmand Province, which is a Taliban stronghold.

All this week, ABC News will be running a special series called “Afghanistan: Where Things Stand.”

ABC’s Nick Schifrin reports from Kabul tonight, where pessimism and corruption are rising along with the violence.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Seven years later, $42 billion spent, 1,070 international troops dead and Afghanistan is less safe, its people less hopeful, and its government less trusted than any time since the war began.

Security has deteriorated to the point where the U.S. is planning to send 30,000 more troops on top of 32,000 already here. The U.S. admits it neglected this war.

GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN [Cmdr., ISAF, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan]: It has been of a lower priority than the Iraq theater in terms of U.S. commitment, and so I think there is a feeling among all – to include myself – that we would like to be further along.

SCHIFRIN: Attacks against troops and civilians are up as much as 60 percent and the capital is under siege.

MAHMOOD GAILANI [Member, National Assembly]: The Taliban are getting very close to Kabul, are very close to the provincial capitals.

SCHIFRIN: With a lack of security has come a lack of economic development. The majority of Afghans are unemployed.

And while the majority of Afghans suffer, they see this. This is a neighborhood nicknamed “The City of Loot.” The houses are owned by Afghan politicians, but not bought with their salaries. It’s widely believed these houses are bought with drug money.

Rampant corruption has made President Hamid Karzai’s government widely unpopular. His aides admit graft is everywhere. Bribes are required even to get basic necessities.

YASIN OSMANI [Office of Oversight]: Now is the time to be cured of this heart disease.

SCHIFRIN: As President Obama’s special envoy for this region recently put it: “Nobody would argue this war is going well.”

Nick Schifrin, ABC News, Kabul.

HARRIS: Our senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz just got back from Afghanistan. Martha, we heard Nick mention the Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He today – Richard Holbrooke – said that Afghanistan – winning there would be tougher than winning in Iraq. Does that jibe with what you’re hearing from your sources?

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, it certainly does, Dan. And to hear Richard Holbrooke say that today in public – he had very strong comments. He said, I have never seen anything like the mess we have inherited. He wasn’t the only one. Gen. David Petraeus, who’s now charged with this area, said it has deteriorated markedly in the last two years.

Dan, I think what they are doing is preparing Americans for a long haul. And as you know, and as Nick reported, it has already been a very long haul.

HARRIS: And to drill down on that a little bit. Are they basically preparing us for more American casualties?

RADDATZ: I think they are because they want to send, as Nick mentioned, about 30,000 more troops. When you have more troops in an area, you undoubtedly will have more casualties. And David Petraeus said today he wants to send some of these troops in the combat outposts into the provinces. It is going to be much, much more dangerous for those troops.

HARRIS: Our senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. Thank you.

Feb 3, 2009

Who's the Enemy - The Taliban or the Paks ?

The news from the front today is that the Taliban blew up a bridge and halted the main supply route from Karachi port to the Khyber Pass. The attack took place outside of Peshawar, and as too often happens, the Pakistani Army security guards who were supposed to be guarding the bridge against just such an occurrence…were nowhere to be seen.

This is not the first time the Taliban has cut the roads or attacked convoys; a few months ago two large convoys were attacked as well as a supply depot, and some 150 vehicles (humvees, trucks, etc) were destroyed. While General David Petraeus (now head of Centcom and responsible for this AO) recently signed an agreement to bring in supplies and equipment via air thru the ‘stans to the north; it is logistically impossible to fight the war in Afghanistan without road access from Karachi.

Today’s attack is not good news, and it’s going to get worse. There are two issues:

1 - It’s not that our Marines and soldiers are short bullets and beans, because they’re not. The problem is that seven years of large FOB’s have fostered a mindset amongst the Army and Air force that if they’re not given regular access to several kinds of soda, taco night, an ice cream bar, or an omelet station, they can’t handle the stress. Nothing wrong with giving them coke, diet coke, or pepsi and diet pepsi…but to have both, and fruit drinks, and several types of bottled water…do you really want your son killed on a re-supply mission that was carrying diet sodas? Or carrying TV’s that they sell in the PX’s? There has to be a mindset that Afghanistan is a war zone, and the troops need to adapt accordingly. Creature comforts have their place, but it’s so grossly overdone that it costs lives.

2 – Maybe we need to re-define who is our enemy. The Taliban? Al-Quada? The tribes in the lawless North-West Frontier? I’d certainly add the Pakistani ISI, and perhaps their Army, to the list. Obviously Al-Qada is our enemy; this stateless group still acts as a financier to most any anti-west group out there. Probably the Taliban makes the list also, but since most of the Taliban consists of fanatical muslim poor from Pakistan, does this mean that the Paks are our enemy now? We surely don’t see much help from them in exchange for the $ 9 billion in cash aid that President Bush shoveled at them.

Very likely it does – and if we need to start guarding our Karachi – Khyber Pass convoys with Marines, then we’ve just widened the war by 150 million outraged Pakistanis. That’s a small price to pay, however, when the mission is to get sodas and fresh tacos to those back-office REMF’s in Kabul and Bagram.