Tag: US Army

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Pretend you’re a US Senator and presented with this choice: You have $80 billion to “invest” to bolster recruitment and staffing in one of these public-funded institutions. You can choose one or two out of three (yes, I know there is a fourth choice. Play along): A. Give it all to the Internal Revenue Service […]

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Make no mistake. Ayman al-Zawahiri was evil, the Al Qaeda mastermind involved in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the USS Cole, and embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. News of his demise, no matter the cause, is welcome. Everyone who implemented or was behind the decision to take him out should be thanked […]

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Christmas Eve Light Memory

 

Much of my youth was spent living in government quarters on Army posts. The quarters (houses) were all quite similar because they had all been built as part of the Works Progress Administration projects. The red brick was quite uniform. Walk down into the basement and you found exposed I-beams reading “Carnegie Steel.” Each post had several chapels. Of course, one of these would be designated “Main Post Chapel.” Main Post Chapel is the setting of a Christmas Eve memory.

Main Post Chapel at Fort Lewis Washington is an elegant red brick building overlooking the main parade field, lined with carefully pruned evergreen trees. Broad steps lead up to large solid wood doors opening into the chapel interior. There are tall stained glass window and a high peaked ceiling. The chapel is the setting for multiple services, both Catholic and Protestant. On Christmas Eve, this chapel was the setting of a long military tradition, a late evening service.

For decades, this special service was packed with military families, all dress in their finest. The officers and senior enlisted were all in their dress blue uniforms, think black tie, with a few junior sergeants and privates in their issued dress greens, the equivalent of a business suit. The service consisted mostly of Christmas hymns and carols, supported by a pipe organ and piano. The pipe organ was built in 1934, a Reuter Organ Co. Opus 452.

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Much is being made of President Joe Biden’s rather odd news conference yesterday going after guns and gun dealers to curb the epidemic of urban violence. I’m not getting into the “substance” of his remarks, but instead note the President channeling his inner Eric Swalwell (US Rep., D-CA, failed presidential candidate. And much more). Stick with me; a […]

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‘Twas the Season in West Germany

 

I experienced Christmas 1987 through 1989 in West Germany, in the heart of Bavaria, serving as a young Air Defense Artillery officer in the Army Reagan rebuilt. This was just before the influx of disillusioned East Germans and other relatively lawless former Warsaw Pact people, corrupted by the poison of living compromised lives under communism. West Germans were rule-followers. Ordnung muss sein! There must be order! The affirmative answer to “is everything alright?” “Alles ist in Ordnung.”

Everything is in order. One result was that private and public spaces were clean, neat, in order. At the same time, we and the British Army of the Rhine (by its name still an occupying force) had our boots firmly on the backs of a people who had shown a particular penchant for mass violence against others. So, I got to experience German culture and society at its best. I remember two German traditions and an American military tradition.

245th Birthday for the United States Army

 

June 14 is both Flag Day and the Army Birthday. 245 years ago, the Army was first authorized by the Continental Congress. See “Celebrating the Flag and the Army” for the details. This year, President Trump issued the annual proclamation and presided over the U.S. Military Academy graduation and commissioning ceremony this Saturday.

President Trump has made a point of presiding over a different service academy’s graduation and commissioning each year. On each prior occasion, he took the time to stand and shake each new officer’s hand as they crossed the podium. No other president has done this, to my knowledge. Unfortunately, the political theater of COVID-19 prevented President Trump looking each of the newest Army officers in the eyes and shaking their hand. He made the best of the limiting circumstances:*

First Call!

 

4:30 am. Monday. Temperature -20F. Ray Barracks, Friedberg, West Germany.

It’s the coldest winter since the Battle of the Bulge. That was in 1944. This is 1978.

Every Monday and Friday, our mechanized infantry battalion, 1/36 Infantry, 3rd Armored Division, has battalion P.T. or physical training, calisthenics. The other days, its company level. But on Monday and Friday, the whole battalion turns out on the battalion parade field for P.T.

Freedom Isn’t Free: 3 Soldiers Die in Exercise

 

M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (photo by Shane A. Cuomo, U.S. Air Force, public domain)

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is a tall, boxy, tracked, lightly armored vehicle designed to carry a small squad of soldiers while a driver, vehicle commander (squad leader) and gunner maneuver and fight the vehicle. It looks a bit like a tank because it has a turret with a 25mm rapid fire cannon, which can kill peer vehicles but not tanks, due to heavier armor. A unit was out training at night, when a Bradley slipped or got one of its tracks too far over the edge of a bridge in the Fort Stewart, Georgia, maneuver areas. Three of the crew died in the accident and several others were injured.

Rebalancing Forces

 

BrownLandSalesTwo news items caught my eye this weekend, both of them in Stars and Stripes. One story was from Korea, and the other from Germany. Together, they told a story of rebalancing our forces in the world.

The first story is about the activation of a group of new Army Reserve units in Europe. This was a growth in the total number of units or end strength in the Army Reserve. Instead, this was a relatively typical rebalancing of types of units in different parts of the world.

It may seem odd to you to hear of Army Reserve units based in Germany, but this has long been so. There is a very small full-time staff, then unit members either fly in from the States or fly/rail/drive from their American expat civilian jobs in Europe. I had a War College classmate, a native-born American citizen, who lived with his Finnish wife and kids in Finland, working for a tech company. He drilled in Germany.

Aaron Schmidt grew up a military brat and met his wife, Kara Dawn, freshman year of high school when they were assigned to be lab partners. He talks wanting to be a college football coach but being the student manager of the UVA football team cured him of that desire, being raised Catholic, becoming a 7th grade English teacher, and then getting married, selling everything and hightailing it to LA because he and Kara could see the next 10 years of their lives mapped out before them. A series of odd jobs and a series of personal losses left him at loose ends until he found a passion to pursue in Gorucks that ultimately led him to join the Army Reserves as a psychological operations specialist two years before the cutoff for enlistment. He and Bridget have an honest and revealing discussion about being mission-oriented, the hard work of a successful marriage, overcoming loss and aimlessness, and the 4 tenets of his personal ethos.

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This is a tale of unexpected gifts of grub, indeed tasty treats, while in the field on military duty. Each is an unexpected relief from planned, forecast, resourced Army chow. None of these, well almost none, were going to win any awards, but they were gifts of sweet relief from the grind of standard Army […]

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I’m a Liberal

 

I have been following the military career of Spencer Rapone, the West Point graduate who wrote “communism will win” on the inside of his cadet cover and wore a Che Guevara t-shirt under his uniform. As I predicted in an earlier post, the Army cashiered him, albeit a year later. He said that he wanted to rise through the ranks and change the Army from within.

Why am I so interested in this guy? Well, some forty plus years ago, that was me.

My First Jump

 

I graduated from U.S. Army Jump School in January of 1981. Two weeks later I was making my first jump with my new unit, B Company, 1/325 Airborne Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

But it wasn’t just my first jump, we – our battalion – was jumping into Panama to attend Jungle School.

Jumps are pretty nerve-racking. Jumping into the jungle is double-espresso nerve-racking. Only our platoon sergeant had been to Jungle School before (plus a couple of tours in Vietnam), so the rest of the platoon was worried sick about the jump and the jungle environment: snakes, spiders, ants, and weird diseases for starters. The dangers and fears mix with the adventurous feeling one always gets from doing something new.

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In the 1870’s, the Army was tasked with solving the “Sioux Problem” in the Lower Yellowstone region, but logistics problems confounded the command. And it is logistics–supply’s and supply chain–that weighed heavily in Custer’s final days. Enter the American buffalo. A big shaggy haired beast, weighing up to 2000 pounds, and eats a lot of […]

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On Military Service

 

“Color Guard at Fort Belvoir” by US Army Corps of Engineers, via Shutterstock.

Last night, I went on a short adventure that got me to thinking about my time in the military. We were having dinner with friends when we learned that their son, in his 20s, was stuck out on a dirt road somewhere and needed help. They had contacted another friend, Mick, who lived nearby, and we also ventured out to help. When we arrived, Mick was on the scene, but he was surprised to see me. I said “I can’t let a Navy man have all the fun!” Later that evening, I was thinking about the ribbing that guys give each other when they’ve served in different branches. But I also thought about the bonds that exist almost immediately between most men, once they learn that each other served.

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The words and photography of Army National Guard Sgt. Ken Scar (From Marines.mil – The Official Website of the Marine Corps) ARLINGTON, Virginia — I noticed her in my peripheral vision as I was lying in the grass trying to get a meaningful photograph of all the “60s” etched into the backs of the gravestones. […]

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Veteran Suicide Remains a Problem

 

shutterstock_181602527According to a 2013 Veterans Affairs study, approximately 22 veterans take their own lives every day. That is a staggering 8,030 soldiers a year. In a recent article, former Army Ranger and author Sean Parnell points out that the cause of these disturbing numbers remains unknown. He suggests that it may have to do with the Veterans Administration’s process for identifying and treating soldiers with suicidal ideation:

Given the well-documented challenges in getting access to VA services, there’s little reason to believe a gigantic dysfunctional bureaucracy can respond with the appropriate speed and sensitivity needed for a veteran struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Parnell isn’t wrong. The VA is the Gordian Knot of bureaucratic disasters. How much they are to blame for suicides can only be speculated at but, considering how many individuals have died by accident while under the care of the VA, it’s not an unreasonable suggestion.

Lying To Ourselves: Who’s Being Dishonest Here?

 

PUB1250Two long-time U.S. Army officers, now retired, have written a paper for the Strategic Studies Institute at the Army War College titled Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession.

In it, Professors Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras lament that the Officer Corps of the Army has become “ethically numb” and that there is “rampant duplicity” in a “deleterious culture.”

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? After all, we like to think of our military as being the most conservative of all large government institutions and therefore run to a higher standard. Each of the Service Academies stress ethics at their core: “Duty. Honor. Country.”, “Courage. Honor. Commitment.”, ” Integrity. Service. Excellence.”