Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Balikatan 2007

Balikatan means shoulder to shoulder and is an annual combined military exercise involving U.S. and Philippine forces. This year, one significant portion of it, is a civil project in a small town on the north shore of our island. It's my teams turf so we are responsible for the coordination between the Marine engineers and Navy Seabees and the Philippine forces involved. These Sailors and Marines have been a credit to their nation. Their service and interaction with the locals have been exemplary.

The Seabees are currently building new classrooms for the local elementary school. Working with local materials and methods completely foreign to what they are used to, they are constructing buildings that will be used to further the education of many children for many years. They are working in the middle of town and have earned the respect and gratitude of the people in town.

The Marines are improving the road into town. They started with a narrow and rutted dirt trail and are widening it and turning it into an improved dirt road that will stand up to the heavy rains common in these tropics. Their use of heavy equipment prevents them from the more literal slogan of shoulder to shoulder but their professionalism is a positive example to the dozens of children and adults who love to watch the big machinery at work. Then the thought occurred to me, the only thing that could make this operation better would be to have toys, replicas of the big machinery in use, to hand out as physical reminders of the time the American and Philippine forces improved their town.

This past weekend we coordinated for a bazaar of local vendors to be organized so the Sailors and Marines could experience some local culture and purchase souvenirs. I was assigned other duties on Saturday and could not participate in the bazaar that day but did participate on Sunday. Once again, the Sailors and Marines were excellent examples of international ambassadors. It was a thrill to watch them interact with the local vendors and townspeople. They talked with children who were trying out some of the English they learned in school and sampled local foods. The locals love the money the Americans brought to town and the Americans love the souvenirs the Filipinos have to offer. Hardly a day passes without me seeing an American proudly showing his peers the new treasure he acquired through purchase or barter.

Basketball is the Philippine national sport and Phil soldiers often play at the national level. I have seen them play some very competitive ball. So, when the Marines and Seabees saw some Phil soldiers playing basketball on the court in the middle of town (literally the very heart of the town) they quickly challenged them to a game. When the first five Americans began to be educated on the basketball court, a call went out to the best ball players in the American camp. The second American team managed to match the tired Phil team basket for basket, after they found their style of play, and there was a large crowd watching the game cheering for the players and not the teams. But, the game came to an abrupt and early finish.

First, it was just a distant boom. Explosions are not daily occurrences here but they are heard frequently and do not cause much alarm. Then, we could hear the distinct sounds of small arms fire. The sounds of artillery can echo off the mountains and be heard over long distances but small arms fire has to be pretty close to be heard. It also makes the battle much more personal.

The Phils were the first to be recalled. The Marines quickly followed their lead and all liberty was cancelled 30 minutes early. We needed to quickly account for all Americans and ensure their safety. We also needed to find out what was happening. The details filtered in through the remainder of the evening and both work and pleasure ended early for the day.

For a couple of hours, war became a spectator sport. We watched helicopters attack, heard artillery pound the nearby hills, and listened to reports filter in from the various U.S. and Philippine units in our area. All about this: Soldiers engage Sayyaf in Sulu; 6 bandits killed which happened just over a mile from our location.


Monday, February 26, 2007

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty


The Department of Defense announced today [22 Feb 07] the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

          Cpl. Timothy D. Lewis, 20, of Lawrenceburg, Ky., died Feb. 15 as a result of non-hostile action in Jolo, Republic of the Philippines.  His death is under investigation. Lewis was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

           For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the Okinawa public affairs office at 011-81-611-745-0790 or okinawapao@usmc.mil .

This was a very bad way to start Operation Balikatan 2007. My team is directly involved in this annual combined operation between US and RP forces and facilitated the medical evacuation of CPL Lewis.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Milbloggie Finalist?

By the time indicated for the closing of nominations and before any official announcement I was in the top five finalists for the Milbloggies Army branch. I will be out on assignment for the next several days and will not have the chance to wait for any official announcement or campaign for the coveted award of top Army blogger. So, keep me in your thoughts and prayers and vote.


Care for the Soldier

With all the publicity caused by the Washington Post's article about conditions for Walter Reed Army Medical Center's outpatient care, I am not surprised. Substandard housing conditions and administrative support is common where soldiers are temporarily assigned. In November of 2001 I was activated to go to Afghanistan. Our mobilization station was Ft. Campbell and for 3 months a National Guard Special Forces Battalion lived in old barracks abandoned by the 101st Air Assault Division and condemned two years earlier. Two years later, while preparing for my second tour in Afghanistan, I was housed in more dilapidated barracks at Ft. Benning. For this deployment we mobilized at Ft. Lewis and they put us in buildings that were literally falling apart. The Army has a habit of delaying the destruction of condemned buildings and then using them for temporary housing.

I have also seen the way the Army handles soldiers on a medical hold status. I had a brother who served during Desert Storm and was medically discharged from an injury he received while there. He spent more than a year at Fitsimmons Army Medical Center in Colorado waiting for the Army to decide what to do with him. There are currently three members of my team receiving medical care back at Ft. Lewis complaining about similar treatment. Not medical treatment but administrative treatment. These soldiers are injured and incapable of performing their jobs; if they could do them they would still be here. So, they sit in Washington with little to do beyond the occasional medical appointment and get harassed by administrators that impose ridiculous regulations like telling SF soldiers they cannot wear their assigned headgear which was a presidential award.

Everything described in the WaPo article I have seen firsthand in one form or another. It is so common that it is accepted as part of life in the Army. After all, if I wanted five star accommodations, I would have joined the Air Force.


Saturday, February 17, 2007


I have been kicking this around for a few days now and decided it would be fun to see how my site ranks. So, I'm tossing my hat into the ring.

If you didn't already know that the Milbloggies were accepting nominations then you live much more remote than I do. Drop in and tell everyone what you think of my blog. Cast your vote's quick, nominations end on the 21st.

Direct link to my page

Update: I am always willing to offer awards to the ones who show the greatest courage, our spouses. I wish each of them could receive this award and there is one way they can. Vote for Spouse Buzz


The Wall

When I was attending the Special Forces Qualification Course at Ft. Bragg, I had a brother stationed there with the 82nd Airborne. I remember stopping by his barracks after returning from 4 weeks in the field. First, I ordered pizza for us and his roommates to eat a meal I could enjoy for the first time in a month. Then, over the remnants of my long craved for meal, I asked, "Where can we go for the long Thanksgiving weekend?" He first suggested Disney World. I had previously experienced Disney Land but I knew that Disney World was much more than Disney Land; it was a good idea. Then he said Washington D.C. was an equivalent distance the other direction. All thoughts of Disney World disappeared and a couple of hours later, we were driving north.

We checked into a hotel near a subway station and within walking distance of Georgetown then were out on M Street that night. For a good little Mormon boy raised in Utah, the crowd of people packing M Street was a new experience. The air was charged with excitement and I was thrilled to be experiencing such abundant life after 4 weeks of isolation in the cold, mud, and rain.

The Wall was only a few years old at the time and it was our first stop on The Mall the next day. I wore a MIA/POW bracelet at the time with the name of a Special Forces solder who died five days after I was born and I searched The Wall for his name. I found it and touched it. Still today, I feel a love for a man I never had a chance to meet. He was in the command bunker of an A Camp when it was overrun and left for dead. They never recovered his body or confirmed his death so he is still officially listed as missing-in-action. He was my predecessor and I do what I can to continue his legacy. He is one of many that The Wall honors.

Next month, a gathering of losers plan to form at The Wall to make their political statement that the freedom and justice that my predecessors fought and died for is no longer worth fighting for. If their wishes are granted then we will lose the war in Iraq. Millions will lose the freedoms we take for granted and justice will be at the mercy of thugs who think women should not be educated and murdering masses of people in an open marketplace is good form. These losers want to start their march for the abandonment of everything our country stands for at The Wall; the very Wall that honors the men who fought against a different tyranny that many of these same losers wanted to establish at home.

A Gathering of Eagles has formed to protect The Wall; I wish I could be there. I hope to encourage someone to go in my place. These losers, who have vandalized property at our capitol in the past, think they can do whatever they want under the pretense of freedom of speech. Now the Eagles and I wish to use our freedom of speech to say; "We will not tolerate any vandalism of The Wall whether physical or political!"


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Iraq's Terrorist Connections

It has been a long-standing claim among the war protesters that there was no connection between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda. Again, this is more wishful thinking than reality.

I have lost contact with my Middle-eastern NSA/State Department source, so this part will have to remain undocumented. He told me that an Iraqi newspaper reported on the pending 9/11 attack three months prior to the attack. An undocumented source but a creditable source that deserves further investigation. My remaining sources are much more creditable.

The Weekly Standard reported in March 2006 a direct link between Iraq and al Qaeda through official Iraqi channels. The heart of the article is based on the following:
These documents add to the growing body of evidence confirming the Iraqi regime's longtime support for terrorism abroad. The first of them, a series of memos from the spring of 2001, shows that the Iraqi Intelligence Service funded Abu Sayyaf, despite the reservations of some IIS officials. The second, an internal Iraqi Intelligence memo on the relationships between the IIS and Saudi opposition groups, records that Osama bin Laden requested Iraqi cooperation on terrorism and propaganda and that in January 1997 the Iraqi regime was eager to continue its relationship with bin Laden. The third, a September 15, 2001, report from an Iraqi Intelligence source in Afghanistan, contains speculation about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and the likely U.S. response to it.

Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups ARE in Iraq today and the fight against them is obviously a fight against terrorism, which makes the war in Iraq part of the war on terrorism. The only point that may be argued is, were the terrorists there before the U.S. troops or did they suddenly appear there overnight.

For those of us who are at the front in the War on Terrorism, we see the links through multiple sources on a regular basis. All stories that are neglected by the mainstream media because they do not advance their political agendas. Then, as far as the protesters are concerned, if it was not reported in the New York Times, it did not happen.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

It Is The Soldier

OK, time for me to weigh in (when I should be doing homework). I just cannot let this injustice continue without revealing it for the hypocrisy it is.

Arkin from the WaPo, and now O’Meara, a misguided moron over at Daily Kos, are trying to advance our defeat in a time of war. Since our first troops went into Afghanistan back in ’01, the MSM has spoon-fed the American public highly filtered propaganda in order to front their political ambitions. War does make strange bedfellows, because this one has the American Left biting the pillow for Islamic terrorists.

When the American Soldier finds a voice through the New Media and provides an unfiltered and unbiased firsthand account of what is really happening, the left tries desperately to discredit and/or silence that voice because it is contradictory to their distortion of the facts. These logical contradictions at the WaPo and Kos are attempts at both.

First, they claim that the soldier should not criticize the public. Last I checked, we were citizens of the United States and were still eligible for the liberties grated by our constitution which would allow each of us the right to express our opinion regardless of location. They claim that the military should not be involved in politics but they do not have the mental capacity to distinguish the difference between the military as an organization and individuals within the military.

Next, they try to discredit the force that stands between them and the next terrorist attack by calling us mercenaries. I cannot speak for everyone who enlists or reenlists, but I can speak for myself and know the people I work with. I, along with everyone else on my team, left a profitable job and volunteered to perform this mission in the Philippines at significant personal expense. Yes, we do receive additional incentives while deployed in a combat zone but it is a small pittance compared to the great sacrifices that we endure. On occasions the Army offers additional bonus for people to stay in and I would be stupid to turn down anything offered for something I would do anyways. Now, let me itemize all the bonuses I have received over the last 20 years of service. Above my regular pay and allowances, I have received: a t-shirt, a pen, a Camelbak, and a barbeque utensil set.

Some call me a mercenary just because I receive a – less than honest – wage. Can I apologize now for needing some money to live on? If I had alternative means to support my family, I would still be here even without pay if necessary because the job must be done! I have walked on foreign soil and have seen the price paid by those who do not stand up against despots and I will not lay that burden on my children.

You should be grateful for the sacrifice that I, and every other service member, willingly offer. Showing disdain for us only cheapens the liberties that you enjoy. Liberties you would not have without us.

It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005

Retrieved from International War Veterans Poetry Archives


Friday, February 02, 2007

Tax Time

Once again, it is tax time and if you have not already heard, members of the armed forces can use TaxCut online free of charge. You need to follow the link from www.MilitaryOneSource.com for free access. I always do the taxes in my home and the opportunity to do it online made it very easy this year. My military W2 was available online at MyPay so I only had to wait for the W2 from my civilian job. When it arrived, I had my wife scan it and e-mail it to me. It only took me 90 minutes to complete both Federal and State returns and submit them electronically.

As a member of the National Guard on active duty during tax time, I always wonder what I should put in the profession box. Do I put my civilian job or do I put Soldier? Then, this year, I began thinking about all the jobs that have been required of me. Since I have been on this island, I have been soldier, teacher, security consultant, and security guard. I have been carpenter, generator mechanic, and electrician. Then, everyone who has ever attended Basic Training is both groundskeeper and janitor. As the team Communications Chief, I am communications systems engineer, dispatcher, network engineer, network administrator, tech support rep, and cable guy.

Every Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) has a designated job description and very little of what I mentioned above is listed in the 18E job description. Instead, it is all covered under the little catch-all at the bottom of every MOS job description, “and all other assigned duties.”

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