Monday, October 31, 2005
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XV
Blogger Thwarts Photo Posting
UPDATE: Just as mysteriously, 4 hours later I am able to post. See above.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
The Prez Steps Off His Weenie
Time to step up and pick someone qualified to sit in the Top 9.
UPDATE: It appears that Dorkafork saw this one coming.
Don't worry, I'll still talk smack with the Cubs fans. There is nothing that wrong with me...
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XIV
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XIII
One More Anecdote
General Sir William Payne, Bt, at that time [July-August 1809] commanding the cavalry, was noted for his eccentricity. During the retreat from Talavera he addressed the cavalry commissaries as follows: 'Owing to the exertions it would entail, a commissary who did his duty in this country could not possibly remain alive. He would be forced to die. Of all my commissaries, not one has yet sacrificed his life; consequently they are not doing their duty.' Schaumann (a German) commented: 'Most Englishmen of high position, particularly when they are serving in a hot climate, are a little mad.'
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
If the Miserable Donuts can call any place 'home' it may well be Rockford, IL. Of the six primary contributors, five hail from this hapless burg. For the record, four of the five had the good sense to leave this hapless burg early on. The vaunted Chicago Tribune recently ran an expose on Rockford and I thought the Rockford Ex-Pats might want to take a look. For all other Donuteers, it may be interesting reading on the perils of isolationism. Click Below - (You may need to log in to the tribune)
Rough Ride in Rockford
Linguistics with George...
The renowned Gizoogle web site translates other websites into Funk. I took the liberty of passing our own, fine, linguistically-sound blog through the filter and found the results most amusing. Be advised - it takes 30 seconds or so to translate the site, and it contains some mildly offensive (though really funny) language.
To get down just for the funk of it, smack your soul finger on the rinky-dink pink link HERE.
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XII
Monday, October 24, 2005
How to sack a divisional commander: Tewkesbury, 4 May 1471.
Lord Wenlock not having advanced to the support of the first line, but remaining stationary, contrary to the expectations of Somerset, the latter, in a rage, rode up to him, reviled him and beat his brains out with an axe.
Best Linguistics Post. Ever.
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XI
Saturday, October 22, 2005
My Role Model
There was [a] ... Man that was remarkable for a great Eater, his Name was John Jones, who belonged to Captain Cutler's Company: He said he was prodigious hungry. With that the Men asked him how many Cannon Balls he had eaten for his Breakfast. Then I said to him, Thou deservest Preferment, if thou canst digest Cannon Balls. Then Sergeant Smith came up to me, and told me, He had eaten four or six twenty-four Pounders, and as many six or twelve Pounders in a Morning for his Breakfast. Now this Sergeant was not addicted to tell fabulous Stories, though it seemed incredible to any one's Thinking. But he explained it in this Manner, that the Man often frequented the Fields in Search of those Cannon Balls; that he had used to dig them out of the Banks, and had brought a great Number in a Morning to the Artillery, in order to dispose of them for Money; and the Money he bought his Provision with. Had there been no Cannon Balls flying, he certainly could not have subsisted; for he both eat and drank more than ten moderate Men: So that his daily Study was to provide for his Belly.
Friday, October 21, 2005
How To Blog Good
Don't Mess With Texas (barbeque)
Two great tastes that go together II
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return X
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return IX
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Remembrance of Things Past
It's always alarming to find a picture of oneself on the Internet. It's even more alarming if that pictuce also shows me with a mullet. The photo at right was take in 1988 when I was a DJ on a college radio station - WRCR - at Rockford College. I'm the one with the blue baseball hat (and stylishly pegged jeans). Anyone who has had experience with college radio can click HERE to see a great website about a puny little college radio station founded in 1963. Note the use of turntables! Running Dog used to have a show as well!
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return VIII
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
How Our IT Department Views Me
Look Where We Had A Visit From!
Hollywood Sneak Peek
[Thanks to Scribal Terror for the tip]
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return VII
Monday, October 17, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return VI
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Long Suffering - Rewarded
I entered my personal baseball hell, commonly known as "being a Chicago White Sox fan", in 1977. As a kid, I just loved those guys in the ugly uniforms that played in a crappy park, had really bad afros, worse mustachioes, etc., but hit lots of home runs. In my 39 years, they haven't won ANYTHING. Now they have won the AL pennant for the first time since 1959...I cannot imagine what a World Series victory would be like. But it appears that this year is the first time in my life such thoughts are more than delusion/insanity/fantasy.
UPDATE: Oh, yeah!
Saturday, October 15, 2005
I forgot something
Since we have readers from the East and West Coasts (and the South) as well as Brits, Aussies, Canadians - (I even see Spanish, German, Portugese, French, Finn, Dane, Norwegian, Estonian, South African, Greek, Turk, Italian, Venezualan - even once from Mauritius!) So I would like to know if anything like this is to be found in your part of the country (or part of the world).
Friday, October 14, 2005
I Enjoy My Job More Than This Guy
Thank goodness Zurich isn't as screwed up as this guy's outfit.
They Weren't Always Happy to See Me
Some of the 3/116th INF at Qarabaghi-Robat
I spent a fair amount of time accompanying the 3/116th INF's patrols in the area around Bagram, AF. Almost every time, the people were a mix of curious, glad and interested when they saw us. However, one of the three times I was frightened (trust me, I was often apprehensive, occasionally nervous) while in Afghanistan came when I went with a patrol to the village of Qarabaghi-Robat.
Our patrol had a local policeman along with us - and his behavior told me something was wrong from the get go. Normally, we would come to a village and the inevitable crowd would gather. We would then ask to see the village elder(s) and let them show us around, talk about what was going on in the area, etc. This time was different. Our policeman started suggesting that we wait outside the village, and he would go find the elder and bring him to us. When we told him that we had to go into the village, he became very agitated. He left to find someone while we waited where you see in the picture below.
Not happy to see Major John and friends...
The people that did gather around while we waited for the elder were not acting normal either - sullen, not talkative (a non-talkative Afghan from the Bagram area is truly alarming) and they made my interpreter nervous. The interpreter (a fellow from Kabul) told me that the people were not happy we were there - and they were making rather rude and crude remarks about us, and him as well.
Eventually the policeman returned and told us no elder or other representative of the village was around, and we should wait for them outside the village. Before I could think of something suitably sarcastic to say, the NCO leading the patrol said "you tell him we are going to look around, and he can wait somewhere else if he wants," to our interpreter. The policeman then did leave, much to my surprise. Also, the crowd had grown in size and surliness.
The NCO and I looked at each other, shrugged, and moved out. A group of men of the village followed us as me walked through the center of the village and turned down an alley. We had obviously gone someplace nobody wanted us to go by the villager's reaction. They were getting louder, and our interpreter mentioned they were starting to make threats.
When we go to the end of the alley, one of the soldiers told me he had walked over a hollow sounding patch of ground - and that when his platoon had been in the South of Afghanistan (near the Pakistan border), this was how many weapons caches were hidden. We stopped to check the spot out, borrowing a shovel from the propertyowner (he looked like he had just sucked an entire lemon). The covered over pit was full of garbage, and we figured it wasn't a weapons cache - but as we were giving the shovel back, the interpreter told us that "these people are crazy". I asked him why, he said that they were telling him how they were going to kill him, and then all of us. I quietly mentioned this to the NCO and we agreed it was time to leave Qarabaghi-Robat.
As we were leaving, the village elder suddenly appeared. He confined his conversation to asking for supplies and help with the local school. I was upset at first, but then had to admire the man. Here were his people threatening to kill us, and he wants school supplies...
We went back to Bagram AF and reported everything. Later, I had the leader of the area around that village, one Haji Sultan Qand (aka "Commander Qand") apologize on behalf of the people and promise to give them a swift kick up the backside. He said that someone had told the village that the Americans were coming to look through your houses (a particularly touchy subject with the Afghans - you would bring dishonor to them, see their women, etc.) and do all sorts of bad things. The enemy didn't just shoot rockets at us in Bagram, they also engaged in disinformation. If we had not kept our cool, or someone had as much as thrown something - the effort would have yielded great results for the enemy. I shudder at the thought of us having had to fight our way out of there.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return V
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
He brutally cut off his own head while shaving...
Nothing to see here - move along.
[thanks to the Mudville Gazette for the initial story]
Gratuitous Afghan Photos IV - Son of the Photos
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Gratuitous Afghan Photos III - The Return of the Photos
Monday, October 10, 2005
I second the nomination
Does this mean I won't be getting a bonus?
Gratuitious Afghanistan Photo Returns II - The Photos Strike Back
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The Return of the Gratuitous Afghanistan Photo of the Day
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The Donut of a Military Career
Friday, October 07, 2005
The Guard and Katrina Relief
First, a note on timing. The National Guard Bureau had sent out it's version of "calling all cars" on August 31, 2005. The National Guard of every State, Territory, Commonwealth and the District of Columbia was put into motion. I, myself, was at my armory and ready on September 2nd - and I was part of the second wave of troops heading into LA or MS. Anyone saying that the decision to put troops into the situation was too slow is simply wrong.
When my unit arrived at the Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base - New Orleans on September 8, 2005 we found three things; supplies pouring in faster than they could be received or even moved away from the airfield, a mix of every branch of the Armed Forces and Coast Guard, and everyone rushing to get things done without the clearest of direction.
My unit was supposed to solve the first problem, support everyone in the second situation, and help the Louisiana National Guard solve the third situation. We managed the first very well, the second mostly so, and the third only so-so.
Our supply and services, transportation, and plans folks worked their butts off and moved mountains of food, water, fuel and other items to every place that needed it. In fact, we pushed out so much food and water, that units were asking us to stop after a couple of weeks.
A complication with the mix of forces was not just that we had Army National Guard and Air National Guard present* but that we had active component forces involved. The Navy was terrific - they were the lead service in the full time garrison of the base we were on, and they never did anything but help. However, when we worked with the Active Army and Marines, they had their own, parallel, support channels. The active forces worked from different funding sources, had different requirements for reporting, and frankly, a different mind set than the Guard. I feel that we never did succeed in meshing with the active forces, as far as support went. Operationally, I understand that things went well enough.
The biggest problem was trying to unite "54 little armies" (as one LTC described the poly-state Guard mix) under a single command, and with a single direction. Each State's command authority (Governor and Adjutant General) was the ultimate say so on when units came and went. When we ended up with too many transportation units, for example, some were withdrawn by their State. We struggled to keep up with what units were present and who was commanding or supporting which units. The only cure for this is going to be multi-state training exercises and staff planning. That is going to be hard work for the National Guard Bureau and all of us out in the states.
If the Guard committed one error, it was bringing in too many forces at first. Erring on the side of caution is forgivable, but having too many units in place led to underemployment and affected some people's morale. I was actually more frustrated in Louisiana than in Afghanistan. The solution for this is better training in what we once called "Battle Damage Assessment", and better staff workg on force structure planning.
I hope this doesn't come across as too negative. As I have mentioned before, self criticism and improvement is a big reason the US Army is the quality force it is today. Overall, Operation Crescent Relief has worked out well. I just don't want the next, similar effort to repeat our mistakes or headaches.
*I must say that I had a terrific experience with the Air Guard this operation. In 1993, during the Mississippi flood relief, they were not so easy to deal with. I have to give them their due, however.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
NOTE: These opinions are mine, and mine alone. Nothing I express is the position of anyone but me, and certainly not a representation of the opinions of anyone in any part of the US Armed forces in any official capacity.
That said, I need to provide a short background of my experiences with deployment. I will endeavor to keep this short and to the point...
1993 - I was called up for three weeks of State Active Duty with the Illinois Army National Guard to assist in relief efforts with the Mississippi flooding in July of that year.
1997 - I was called up out of the Army Reserve for 8 months in support of Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor [Bosnia]
2004-2005 - I was called up with the 33rd Area Support Group of the Illinois Army National Guard for a total of 15 months active duty (12 months in Afghanistan) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
1993 was classic National Guard work. Sandbagging, running for my life through a cornfield when the levee near Nutwood, IL breached, and helping municipal authorities in overwhelmed Alton, IL.
1997 was purely a result of the Army being sold a raft of crap. The regulars were quite blunt in telling us the reason we Reservists were called up and sent (in my case to the 21st TAACOM). Quite simply, the Army had been assured that if they could just make it 9-12 months, the whole thing would end and the boys would be home by Christmas. I stepped off a C-130 at Sarajevo Aerodrom 18 months to the day from when the President had said we would be gone from Bosnia...We were also quite unsettled by what we were asked to do. It was quite a break from our normal mission. But we managed to get the job done, even if it was years too long in seeing the Europeans take the job on fully.
2004-2005 was the other side of the classic Guard mission. Support in time of war. The war was a bit odd, having entered the "post-Taliban ouster" phase, (less than stand-up conventional fighting) but was still normal enough (if darned exotic to me, personally speaking).
2005 was almost a reprise of 1993, except that it was a huge amount of National Guard, from many places - alongside active component soldiers, the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. I see why the Navy was involved. The Coast Guard was a natural too. In fact, if anyone has been slighted in the whole Katrina relief effort, it has been the United States Coast Guard. The Coasties were saving people before anyone realized there was a major problem. They saved thousands and did not receive even a tiny fraction of the credit they were due. It was easier for the press to follow the 82nd Airborne around New Orleans.
I am still shuddering about the 82nd being brought into this effort. I happen to be a big fan of Posse Comitatus, and I am still waiting for someone to give me a good reason for heaving it aside - and not simply because one State of the Union wet its pants at crunch time. Why is Florida able to avoid folding like a broken cot everytime a hurricane slams ashore? Why should North Carolina have it's sovereignty flushed down the hopper whenever a tropical depression forms? You can get all the Federal help you can handle if you just ask for it. Also, I didn't hear of a single governor refusing Louisiana's call for help - EMACs (assistance compacts between states) were flying off the fax machines in every state capital. Wars aside, there are still a few hundred thousand Army and Air Guard available for such a call...
I thank you for putting up with this. This has been boiling up for a bit - especially since about week two of this last deployment. I will cover that tomorrow.
Why is the US Army the best in the world? I have worked with the armies of many other nations, from the very good (British) to those getting better (Polish) to the near hapless (Uzbek, Albanian). You can point to our technology, funding, size, and many other factors. One thing that seems to startle other nation's services is our self-criticism and evaluation process. I remember the shocked look on Ukrainian, Greek, Moldovan and other faces when I was giving out evaluations as an Observer-Controller at an exercise in Ukraine in the summer of 2003. One Polish officer said, "In my country, we cannot just do what we want..." That gave me a bit of insight into how we were being perceived. The Polish officer was associating critique with anarchy. [NOTE: The Polish units I served alongside in Afghanistan in 2004-2005 showed improvement in their flexibility and adaptability].
The US Army has its own site to gather examples of where we goofed, where we adapted, where we need to improve, etc. This site is the Center for Army Lessons Learned [CALL]. I am going to be sending them a few tidbits when I get my thoughts together about Operation Crescent Relief.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Home Sweet Home
Anyhoo, good to be back. The wife and kids were very happy to see me, almost as happy as I was to be back with them. I am sure that the 'Prop was buried in daughters trying to all hug him at once.
My grand review of Operation Crescent Relief will be forthcoming within the next day or two. We have business at our armory to tend to before we are released for good.
Oh, I almost forgot ... Yeeeha! Go you freakin' White Sox, go!
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Byeee from Major John
I found an Air Force computer room - heh heh. So, one last pic from me and I am gone until Tuesday night. I will have thoughts on the whole Katrina deployment next week. I will contrast it against the other three times I have been called up and moved out (Mississippi Flood - 1993, Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor [Bosnia] - 1997, Operation Enduring Freedom [Afghanistan] - 2004-2005. Some might be surprised by what I will have to say...
Saturday, October 01, 2005
They yanked MJ's computer and my cable so he held down the computer guy while I "borrowed" a cable for one last post before we go back to Illinois.
We will be traveling Monday to Tuesday so he will be back up and running Tuesday night we expect.
Thank you to all the nice wishes we recieved and the nice people who came to replace us.
We hope we made a difference to the people of LA and brought additional insight of the situation to the people of the blog-sphere (you are people mostly, right?)
Oops John lost his grip, gotta go...
For now, BYEEE!