Friday, October 31, 2003


When my husband goes into the field, he leaves behind his wedding ring and I wear it on a chain around my neck.
I guess that makes me a Hobbit for Halloween this year...


I've read a bit about the LTC Allen West story, how a lieutenant colonel fired a gun to scare an Iraqi police officer into spilling the beans on a planned sniper attack and might . Both Sgt Hook and CPT Patti have begun threads on the sensitive topic.

This case got me started thinking about a bigger fish to fry. My husband and I have a running joke that the reason no one has caught Saddam Hussein is because it's my husband's job, and that he'll be the one to take care of Hussein. But as I started thinking about this joke today, I realized what a tricky issue it will be if/when they do find him.

Imagine the following scenario: a soldier is walking through a city and happens to see Saddam Hussein. The soldier is armed. Should he shoot? Ignore the details, such as "how do we really know it's Saddam" or "what would Saddam be doing walking around" and concentrate on the moral dilemma. What if a soldier shot Hussein? Uday and Qsay fought back, and thus their deaths could be justified. But what if Saddam didn't know someone had spotted him? If the soldier goes back to inform his unit that he's seen Hussein, the opportunity might be lost. If he attempts to capture him alive, the soldier's life might be in danger. What if he just put a bullet through his head instead? No one could argue that Saddam wouldn't deserve it. But what about the repercussions?

I'm curious what people think about this. I know it's not a very likely scenario, but we have no idea how we'll finally come across Saddam. It's possible this is something someone might have to think about. It seems like a similar issue as to whether a LTC can use extreme measures to get a confession. In the end, it's the same moral question: Do the ends justify the means?


Kalroy comments. It's interesting how lots of people in the military say they would have done the exact same thing, but they think LTC West should be punished...


All day yesterday I sat by the phone and at the computer, trying to reach anyone in my family so I could to find out news on my grandma. I thought I'd be braver when this moment arrived, but it's stunning how alone you feel with a deployed husband, a father out at a job site, and two brothers at the GRE and a college class. Blogging kept my mind off of my feelings of detachment; I'd rather be angry at a barking moonbat than worried about my relatives.

My mom made it there in time, which was all we could hope for when our grandma is 92 and hasn't eaten in a week. Mom's been sitting with my grandma trying to reassure her that it's OK to let go...

Our mom is amazing.


Tim at CPT Patti is taking the torch from me and trying to redirect the Army/AF thread towards a more civilized discussion. I'd gladly pass the torch on to him. He's lucky; he doesn't have a comments section, so there's no chance of barking. And, shucks, he called me a prolific brain; his blog's not too shabby either.

And all in good fun, Eric posted a relevant joke over at the evangelical outpost:

One reason the Armed Services have trouble operating jointly is that they have very different meanings for the same terms.
The Joint Chiefs once told the Navy to "secure a building," to which they responded by turning off the lights and locking the doors.
The Joint Chiefs then instructed Army personnel to "secure the building," and they occupied the building so no one could enter.
Upon receiving the exact same order, the Marines assaulted the building, captured it, and set up defences with suppressive fire and amphibious assault vehicals, established reconnaissance and communications channels, and prepared for close hand-to-hand combat if the situation arose.
But the Air Force, on the other hand, acted most swiftly on the command, and took out a three-year lease with an option to buy.


American Democrats and most non-Americans want the USA out of Iraq and the UN in charge.
But when the going gets rough, the UN hauls ass.

How can the UN be in charge and responsible for Iraq when they bail every time they hit a snag?

"United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered most of his international staff out of Iraq in September after two attacks on the organization's headquarters in Baghdad. One, on Aug. 19, killed 22 staff members and visitors and injured more than 150 people.
He said last week that full resumption of United Nations activities there would depend on a full review of the security situation and an analysis of a report issued by an independent panel last week that said grave managerial problems left the organization's headquarters in Baghdad vulnerable to the Aug. 19 attack."

The US Armed Forces is there to stay. I know they at least plan to stay until Summer 2005, because that's how long my husband is scheduled to be there. I imagine they plan for even longer than that.

As Andrew Sullivan asks, "Shouldn't the press ask the Democrats what they'd do now?"


Just don't turn Iraq over to France. Their record is bad enough as it is. And they're a little too cheerful about American deaths.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Newsweek has an interview with Mohammed Odeh Al-Rehaief, the hero who rescued Jessica Lynch. The best excerpt:

Why did you believe the Americans wanted to help you and your country when Saddam repeatedly accused them of indiscriminate bombing and only wanting Iraqi oil?
Why do you think there was a revolution by Shiites in the military against Saddam in 1991? Because they hate Saddam. Everybody hates Saddam. He is a very bad man—he killed the Kurds, he killed many people.

Why did you think the Americans would be any better?
Because I saw one thing happen that made me trust the Americans. I saw a group of Americans trying to search a house that had a dog inside. That dog tried to attack them and stop people from coming in the house, but the [soldiers] didn’t shoot him. They could easily have killed the dog if they wanted to. Instead, they took some of the food they had with them and they gave it to the dog. That’s an animal and they didn’t kill him. They respected his life. So how would it be for humans?


My mom is on her way home right now, hoping to make it across three states before my poor little grandma passes away, and I'm on the other side of the ocean, unable to help. I can't be bothered to think about branch of service bickering or American foreign aid today...

Mom, I hope you make it there in time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


One professor here commented a few weeks ago that the US does not give any true foreign aid in the world, but only invests money in other nations. Marginal Revolution disagrees.


Forgive me for this post of DenBestian proportions, but it's an interesting topic I'd like to explore and open up to other readers for insight. If anyone in either the Army or Air Force out there has thoughts on this explosive issue, please post them in the comments. I already know of one blog that has addressed this topic.

Background Information on the Topic

I posted a small paragraph during the Stars and Stripes series about the article on the discrepancy between the Army and Air Force conditions in Iraq. I didn't really comment personally, other than a smart-aleck closing sentence. Nonetheless, I did manage to attract the attention of a deployed Air Force Major. He posted the following comment:

Alright. I have a certain take on the issue of Army and Air Force facilities. I got to my first Air Force squadron in January 1991. The squadron was deployed, but I had the opportunity of pulling a rotation to Dhahran Air Base that summer. We stayed in the Khobar Towers. Khobar Towers was a large apartment complex built by the Saudi government, but never occupied. The buildings, six stories each if I remember right, had a central stairwell and elevator with two four-bedroom suites per floor. When I arrived, Air Force CE was re-hanging doors, re-installing toilets, sinks and windows. The Air Force had also bought all new furniture in. Why you ask? Well, the Army used Khobar Towers during and immediately after the war and had absolutely trashed the place. Some years later, on a return trip to Khobar, I got to hear an Army soldier complain that the Air Force always got nice places like Khobar.
Next story. A coworker spent some time, years back at a joint Army / Air Force installation in the Balkans. After numerous complaints about the Air Force having such better facilities, a joint commander group did a tour of the installation. When they went into the Army's laundry facility, they found washers and dryers vandalized, graffiti scratched into the walls and trash throughout the place. When they arrived at the Air Force laundry area, off limits to Army troops, they found an female airman ironing her BDUs with mood music playing and candles lit. The machines were in pristine condition and the walls clean.
Third story: Currently in Iraq there is an Air Force detachment on an Army installation. After numerous assaults, thefts and vandalism of Air Force property, the Air Force put concertina wire around its facilities. It now only allows personnel into the Air Force area who can show Air Force identification. Amazingly enough, the assaults, thefts and vandalism have all fallen to zero. That is right now, in Iraq.
Last story. My Air Force unit had an Army major assigned to it for two years. A few months after arriving, he went on a TDY requiring him to carry a lap top computer. Our flight commander pointed him to a shelf with several computer and told him to pick one. The major then went into the standard Army rant about how the Air Force squanders money by its lack of accountability and how its the Army that suffers from this profligacy. I asked him what he meant and he explained that in the Army, he would have had to sign for the computer, the removable hard drive, the case, the carrying strap and any other item. Plus, each item would have been inspected when he returned, but the Air Force obviously didn't care about its equipment enough to do the same. I had to patiently explain to him that the Air Force worked on the assumption that a major, as an commissioned officer in the United States military, had the integrity to return government equipment. The Air Force also assumed he had the professionalism to report damage to the equipment, but if he lacked both integrity and professionalism, perhaps we could do it the Army way. (On a side note, I once mentioned how the Army had trashed Khobar Towers after the war. He chuckled and replied that they did have some pent up emotions after the war that they vented on the Towers, but hey, they knew it was just the Air Force taking over anyway).
So back off on slamming the Air Force for taking care of its facilities.

and I replied as such:
I'm not poking at the Air Force just because the husband's Army. I'd love to hope that airmen take care of each other as you say; my husband has had several things stolen, including his gortex jacket. I've met dirtbags who have flipped HUMMVs for driving recklessly and don't much seem to care. I expect more out of soldiers too, and if your stories are true, then shame on them.
But what does shock me is a quote near the end of the S&S article: "Most Air Force personnel in Iraq will never leave the protective confines of their base. Funis sees the Army soldiers go out the gate every day to patrol the streets of Kirkuk and hunt down Iraqi guerrilla fighters and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Those soldiers, Funis said, have earned her respect.
"They're doing the hardest job out here, and there's no doubt they've got it the worst," Funis said."
The discrepancy in facilities is there, but the discrepancy in mission is what must sting the most. If I were a soldier who spent all day raiding homes and looking for the Bad Guys, I'd be ticked if I came home to find a female airman ironing with mood candles.

The Major then wrote more in the comments:
The Stars and Stripes articles just reinforced my views expressed in my previous post. For example, the water slide and premium outhouse. How did those get built? By Army troops taking the initiative. Why don't the Army troops who are unhappy with their installation do similar projects? Perhaps they and their leadership are more interested in complaining about the Air Force than proactively improving their situation.
I noted a picture of a soldier sleeping on pipes in one article. I immediately wondered why the guy hadn't asked his wife / girlfriend / parents / friends to send him a hiking mattress. They're light, roll up small and inexpensive. You can use them on floors, the ground or even cots and pipes.
Another picture showed soldiers sleeping outdoors on cots. It read, "Because there was no air conditioning in their barracks in Baghdad -- where temperatures exceeded 130 degrees in August -- U.S. soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division slept on cots outside, near garbage trenches and port-o-johns." I read that and the first question that came to my mind, "Who in their right minds would put cots near garbage trenches and port-o-johns? Doesn't the Army leadership care enough about its troops to at least seperate garbage trenches and sleeping areas?"
This evening at dinner, I spoke with an airman who recently visited Baghdad. He said he was amazed at how the Army is haphazardly housed in bomb-damaged buildings while the tidy Air Force camp has row upon row of neat tents.
Burger King and Pizza Hut are ARMY / Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) concessions. Burger King and Pizza Hut pay AAFES for the opportunity to set up shop in forward areas. Why do you only find these ARMY / Air Force Exchange Service concessions in Air Force areas? After all, it is the ARMY / Air Force Exchange Service.
Next, I read a website by a troop stationed in Iraq. He mentioned that the sun wakes him up every morning because the tent is so thin. I looked at the picture of his bunk and thought, dude, put sheets and towels around your bunk. It would keep your bed dark and give you some privacy.
Finally, I deploy I take dark sheets, parachute cord and clothespins with me and I used that all to set up a small privacy space around my bunk. I have even had my wife mail me light blanets and other amenities. Once article mentioned that Air Force facilities have libraries. The books are frequently donated by friends and family. Don't soldiers have friends and family who can mail a box of second hand paperbacks?
Which is why I get tired of hearing Army complaints about the Air Force's living conditions. If things are so bad, do something about it.

Another commenter, a Marine's girlfriend, wrote:
Not always is it as simple as having your family send you things. Some units are not allowed to recieve regular mail or packages. My baby is in one of these.
About books, I've sent 6 boxes of books via my local library for the troops. They were going to the Army but I'm hoping at least the Army will let my babe borrow a book if his unit motors through there.

The Current Situation

I haven't posted anything else about the Air Force since that day, but apparently this Major has still been trying to grok. This week he sent me the following email:

I'm sending this only because I get the sense from your blog that you have an honest interest in the U.S. military. I'll forewarn you, this e-mail is not complimentary to the Army, but it is something I've been thinking about recently. I commented twice on your 18 Oct post "A Touchy Issue" and had no intention of bothering you again, except for an incident today at the [down range] PX caused me to change my mind.
As I've pondered the difference between the Army and the Air Force, I've come to the conclusion that we can see the differences between the Army and the Air Force in the same way as we view the differences between the United States and the Middle East.
In the Army, manliness is defined by a his ability to endure pain and suffering. To this end soldiers will boast about how long they've remained awake, how long they went without food, how little water they had to drink, how far they had to hike, how hot the environment was, etc. Soldiers will even sacrifice mission accomplishment to engage in petty manliness competitions. Two of my subordinates at home station worked extensively with soldiers. One was a TALO and one attended GCSC. The ex-TALO has a routine he does from time to time in which he plays an Army XO. The routine consists of him gesticulating wildly and mumbling incomprehensibly. According to this Air Force officer, his XO would frequently and needlessly go days without sleep, seemingly to do nothing more than to prove his manliness. But the sleep deprivation usually quickly rendered him so incompetent that he became an impediment to the unit. (Sacrificing mission accomplishment to prove his manliness.) The GCSC attendee has told me similar stories - how during map exercises the soldiers would stand around the table for hours, refusing to use the restroom, eat, drink or sit down. Within a few hours they were rendered completely ineffective. The Air Force major would take a break, use the restroom, sit for a while, eat an apple and come back to the table a half hour later to find the Army majors still standing there, almost mute and no closer to a workable plan than when he left. He soon realized that the point was not to successfully complete the assignment, but to outlast the rest of the soldiers in an effort to prove their manliness. So when soldiers with this mindset go to war, they will put their cots next to toilets and garbage trenches and then boast about their manliness. This masochistic machismo does nothing for mission accomplishment and frequently proves to be counter-productive.
The Air Force has a different view of manliness. Rather than using the Army (Middle Eastern) definition, people in the Air Force admire the clever and the accomplished. We admire those people who can devise better living arrangements, those who cook good food, those who use their ingenuity to accomplish the most while expending the least amount of effort - in other words, we admire a man who has "Yankee ingenuity." The Air Force rewards those who succeed, not those who suffer. In this, the Air Force is culturally similar to the United States.
Soldiers, like men living in the Middle East, despise the Air Force because Air Force members take no pleasure in suffering, but invent cunning new methods to overcome and conquer suffering. To the Army, that makes Air Force men somehow less than manly - and thus open to contempt. But like citizens of the Middle East, they secretly crave what the Air Force has and that makes them question their manliness which produces self-doubt and internal fear. This is expressed through a combination of insulting contempt for the Air Force and a pandering envy. The Air Force, on the other hand (like the United States does to the Middle East) tends to ignore most soldiers which seems to make their envy and contempt turn into a virulent hatred.
Soldiers are fixed in their rut of suffering because they can not change. To do so would require them to alter their basic value system and that is too much for them to do.
So, two days ago, as I walked back from the showers here at [an Air Force base that is in the Middle East but not in Iraq] I happened to find myself walking behind three soldiers. As they passed along a row of tents, they sneered at the porches at the entrances to the tents. These porches had overhangs and chairs and stands with televisions, VCRs and DVD on them. The Air Force didn't build any of that, nor did the Air Force buy any of the TVs, VCRs or DVD players.. The people who lived in the tents found the wood and the tools, pooled their labor and money and made the dusty tent city into something livable. Why was that anything to sneer at?
Last week, I had the task of putting a helmet cover and headband on a Kevlar helmet. I have never worn a Kevlar helmet, so I went to our resident experts, the men and women in the Army BCD here. I wanted to know if there were any good tricks or techniques to doing it. The captain I aksed replied to my question with a series of sighing, shrugging and eye rolling reminded me of Al Gore at his worst, or maybe a twelve year old girl. He made it quite apparent that he just couldn't beeeelieeeevvvvvee that an Air Force major couldn't do something so siiiiiiiimmmmple. Why did he see a need to act with such a lack of professionalism?
Some of my coworkers have recently returned from [surveying something that the Army constructed in Iraq that, due to faulty engineering (an engineering tip that anyone with any knowledge of engineering should know about) is already falling apart and needs to be redone.] As one of the Air Force members on the trip told me, "It would have been better had the Army done nothing. Now we'll need to go in and [re-do the entire thing]." He also told me that the soldiers who conducted the tour seemed quite proud of their work and he told me, "It was like having your son give you a clay ash tray he made at school. He is so proud of himself that you have to pat him on the head even though you don't smoke and the ash tray is nothing but junk."
A lieutenant colonel on the same trip told me that the Army at this installation had gone out of its way to deface numerous Iraqi military murals. The murals were the same as you find at any military installation, even in the U.S. They consisted of unit patches, pictures of unit weapons, eagles, lightening, etc. The colonel even had pictures of holes punched through the center of beautiful paintings so the U.S. soldiers could run electrical or comm lines through the wall. The soldiers could have placed the holes to the side of the murals, but they didn't. Why did the Army feel the need to express their contempt for a defeated opponent by gratuitously destroying local military art which had nothing to do with the Ba'ath Party or Saddam?
Here's a story from Naval Institute Proceedings August 2003 "A Different View of Perfection" by Joseph Galloway (He co-wrote We Were Soldiers Once): "As we rolled into the laager point, another Humvee pulled up and the driver asked if there was a Mr. Galloway in ours. The admin captain at the wheel said. "Yes, he's here." The driver replied, "Well, General Scott would like to see him." The captain looked over his shoulder and sneered: "This is going to be the shortest meeting in history; General Scott don't talk to no media pukes." Three hours later then-Major General James Terry Scott and I still were sitting in the trailer talking. First half hour on the current operations; the rest of it on Vietnam." Why did the captain feel he had to insult Mr. Galloway? What American could be so childish?
Finally, I mentioned an incident today at [this Army post in the Middle Eastern country that is not Iraq]. Here's what happened. I went to the PX with a co-worker because she needed another person in the vehicle when she drove between the two bases. She wanted to pick up some gold jewelry she had ordered from the gold store in the PX. While I waited for her, I chose some birthday cards for my mom and sister. As I stood in line to pay, I heard a man behind me say, "We don't let people shop here in their pajamas." I turned around to find a shorter, older gentleman in civilian clothes looking at me and I realized he was referring to my flight suit. I asked him if he was in the Army and he replied that he was. After thinking a moment, I stated, "How odd, I was just pondering the differences between the Army and Air Force." Unknown to this man, who when confronted with an Air Force officer in a PX decided it was an opportunity to insult him, perfectly exemplified the conclusions I have recently come to regarding my sister service.

He wrote back when I asked his permission to print his email with this:

Ironically, I read this today:
Relevant quote: "Our soldiers are very inventive. Here at our tent city we have built showers out of plywood with all different kind of contraptions to sprinkle water down on us to try to get clean. Although no one ever really gets clean because there is dust blowing and floating in the air all the time. The dust is everywhere, always.
"The tents are big and we all have plywood wooden floors and cots to sleep on. The air conditioning keeps our tent at about 75 degrees during the day and the low 60s at night. Many of us have put together makeshift dressers, shelving units and headboards trying to make our tents more like homes. The soldiers in some tents have even figured out a way to make their own separate rooms within their tents. Some have even built plywood houses to sleep in. It is amazing the ingenuity of our soldiers."
So soldiers do use their ingenuity to improve their living arrangements. Which still leaves me wondering why three soldiers wandering through the [down range] living area would mock airmen for doing the same thing.

The Dilemma

I'm not in the Army. I'm not in the Air Force either. I can tell you with decent accuracy what my husband's military life is like, but I certainly can't speak for other soldiers. His job as an armor officer is quite different from that of, say, a junior enlisted soldier in transportation. But I can tell you that this email strikes me as odd on several levels.

First of all, I asked my husband to read it. After he got done, and I asked him what he thought, he replied, "Well, there's obviously a difference in mission, since some Major you've never met has the spare time 1.) to read blogs and 2.) to write you a 10K email." My husband, on the other hand, has not found the time to email since we got to Germany. I have been writing his friends and keeping them abreast of his life so that he doesn't find himself friendless after Iraq. I have kept in touch with his parents and emailed them about our life. I've even written a letter to his grandma for him! When he comes home from work (if he comes home at all!), he barely has time to eat dinner and relax before bedtime. If he does have spare time, he checks the news online or studies Arabic. So I think he was astounded that a Major -- and a deployed one at that -- had the spare time to email a stranger.

Despite that, the content of the email made me realize that I needed to do some more research on the topic before I just responded at an emotional level. I turned to the internet, but I couldn't really find information on the differences between the Air Force and the Army. I then turned to the only person I know in the Air Force: the husband's best friend. I briefly explained the Major's email and asked for his take on the issue. His response was not far off from what I expected it would be. Instead of fisking the Major's email, which would get me too fired up and angry, I'm posting the husband's friend's email here in bold type and adding my two cents where appropriate. I am not nitpicking to show that the Army is "better" or "works harder", only that there is a Real Difference between what soldiers and airmen do, and that when the Major compares them and says that soldiers should basically be more like airmen, he should realized that it's not a fair comparison to make.

The email from my husband's best friend:

Well, where do I begin. Firstly, I am ashamed of this officer. He clearly does not "get it." Our military is called the Armed Forces because we all work together to support the mission. No one branch is better than the other. It takes all of us placing each piece of the war puzzle into place so that bad guys die and good guys live. Not bad mouthing the other services. Now, on the specific subject at hand.
The role of the Air Force (as it always has been) is a supportive role. In fact, when aircraft were first presented to the military, the Air Force was under the command of the Army and was referred to as the Army Air Force. Our job is to weaken the enemy before and during our troops are on the battlefield. We do this by bombing strategic targets like supply lines, factories, railroads, etc and we also come in with low flying aircraft and use 20 mm rounds to push back enemy troops that are in close proximity to our own troops.
On the subject of quality of life. It is in the inherent nature of the Army's mission that Army quality of life is less. Their fight is on the ground near the enemy whereas ours is in the air at times hundreds of miles away. When the Air Force wants to bomb something, we can launch a single aircraft stateside, refuel it a few times, put bombs on target, and then turn around and fly home without landing. That particular pilot might have a long day, but he gets to go home to a bed and a hot shower. The soldier on the other hand, must march in, eat from a MRE or some other means, provide his own security, and sleep in a tent or foxhole for god knows how long. So in war, yes Air Force quality of life is inherently better.
During peace time, again the same shit. In times of peace, we as a military train constantly. But we train as we fight. So Army guys are out in the field like [your husband] has been doing and will continue to do, and myself (just like in war) get up real early, fly for 10 hours, and come home that same day. The Air Force also has a program where if I have to show up at 0800 the following day to fly, by regulation, I am not allowed to be at work 12 hours prior to that showtime. In other words, 12 hours before any showtime, I must be at home. Last I checked, the Army does not have that program. Does that mean the Air Force takes quality of life issues more seriously and the Army less, I don't think so. That's just the way it is due to the different missions of each force.

"We train as we fight." This is the crux of the email. Pilots and airmen perform a crucial job, but theirs does seem to be more like a job. They go to work, fly, and come home. They have regulations that say they have to be home 12 hours prior; my husband does not have any requirements for a certain amount of sleep. If you are operating a vehicle in the Army, you're technically required to have four hours of sleep. But the husband says that this rule is often broken. There have been nights where he comes home at 0230 and leaves again at 0530.

Here is a typical week for me. Our duty hours are from 0730-1630.

It's hard to say what a typical day is here, since they've been preparing to deploy since the day we got here. But my husband's average day in garrison runs from 0630-1730 or 1800. It changes every day, so each night I have to ask him what time he's going to work in the morning and for a ball-park figure of when he's coming home.

I fly about once a week and flying 4-6 times a month is considered a lot. When I fly, the day before is mission planning day. It consist of about 5 hours of gathering all the information for the following days mission. During war, mission planning is continous and much more in depth. As I mentioned, mission planning day must be completed 12 hours before showtime. We all have additional duties and daily briefings we are required to attend even on mission planning days. On flight day, we usually have early showtimes, 0200 is common, but sometimes you don't have to show until 1000. It depends on several factors like where we are flying to and how early are the fighters we are controlling taking off. We usually put in about 13 hours on flight days. The rest of the week is filled with your additional duties, simulator missions, working out (not mandatory like in the Army but several squadrons have programs in place), and ground training which consists of shooting the 9mil, chemical warfare training, etc. Flight crews never work on weekends (unless directed) but all the support crews like maintenence, security forces, and air traffic controllers work around the clock.

My husband works on weekends more often than not. Since he became a platoon leader in September, he has worked on 5 out of the 7 weekends and he worked on both of his training holidays. He also has had to do Staff Duty twice, which means manning a 24-hour duty station. Enlisted soldiers get the next day off after Staff Duty, but not officers. So he works a full workday, reports to Staff Duty, comes home the following morning at 0900 for a shower, and returns to a regular day of work again.

We go to "the field" often. "The field" for us is TDY's. We could go just about anywhere and they usually last about a week. During TDY's we fly every day, stay in hotels, and usually go out to eat at some restaurant.

"The field" for the Army means just that: living in a field. Since we arrived in Germany in June, my husband has gone into the field twice: once for a gunnery that lasted 21 days and he just left for CMTC which will last for 25 days. During that time he sleeps on a cot in a tent if he's lucky; one time he slept on the cement floor of the guard tower at gunnery. He eats MREs or chow, or possibly a German treat if the schnitzel man comes around. Cell phones are prohibited, but most married soldiers sneak one out anyway; just tonight I got a five-minute call from my husband while he was hiding in the port-a-john. In the field, he's lucky to get five hours of sleep, four or three is more likely, and they're not generally consecutive. The point of going in the field is to simulate Army situations, which involve such fun things as getting gassed in the middle of the night. Not to mention that any sleep you get is on training grounds, so there are generally other units there as well, often shooting the tanks into the night. Field sleep is not pleasant sleep, even in Germany where the German government places strict rules on when tanks can fire.
I don't know exactly how TDY works in the Air Force, but in the Army, the abbreviation TDY includes the connotation of extra pay for that duty. My husband was on TDY when he was at the Officer Basic Course, and he got a living allowance, daily mileage allowance, laundry allowance, and other perks. It's considered a great thing to be TDY in the Army because you can make extra money. I don't know if these benefits are included in the Air Force definition of TDY time in the field, but Army field time is not TDY status.

I put about 50 hours a week in not including the time I put in working on my masters which I am doing only because the Air Force says to.

Time in the field is counted as 24 hours a day, which makes rougly 168 hours per week in comparison to the Air Force's 50. (Even if you want to be picky and say they get 5 hours of sleep per night, it's still 133 hours per week.) Time in Iraq will also be counted 24 hours a day. In a regular week in garrison, my husband probably works roughly 60 hours. He's trying to learn Arabic as well, and he barely has time to squeeze in two or three hours per week working on it.

The typical airmen (privates) are no different in the Air Force than in the Army. They're young, inexperienced, under-educated, and motivated. There are of course bad apples (just like in the other branches). I have no personal experiences of airmen being more creative than privates. My view is that the airmen just do as they are told as best as they can. As they mature into NCO's they become more creative maybe.
Air Force personnel are deployed just as often as the other branches. In recent years, folks have been deployed for up to 200 days out of the year.

The Army is currently running deployments of 365+ days. We'll be lucky if he spends less than 14 months in Iraq next year.

As long as we don't go to war soon, it looks like most of the Air Force will not be deployed for another year since we are in a period of reconstitution. We have been deployed so much lately that we had to slow down and catch up on a few things. Of course, while we are here at home the Army and Navy are still out there. But there really isn't anything for us to do right now.

Exactly, friend, exactly. There really isn't anything for you to do right now. The Air Force's mission basically ended when the war was declared over, besides the airmen who are flying the flights carrying troops back and forth from deployment (as I understand it. Please correct me if I'm oversimplifying.) According to Stars and Stripes, "the Air Force has only about 5,000 troops in Iraq. The Army's 130,000 troops make up the bulk of the 160,000-strong U.S. military force in Iraq." The article also explains how the Air Force facilities can be nicer because the Air Force cannot deploy until certain amenities are in place, because of the rules governing airmen's flight schedules. These Air Force facilities are also more permanent; those that belong to the Army have to be mobile and low-maintenance, since soldiers have to be able to go where they're needed. The Air Force stays where the terrain is right for planes to land, thus they invest more time and effort into their quarters.

You're right. It is the mission that separates the Air Force from the Army, not the people. People are always the same and very predictable.

I quoted it before and I'll quote it again: "Most Air Force personnel in Iraq will never leave the protective confines of their base. Funis sees the Army soldiers go out the gate every day to patrol the streets of Kirkuk and hunt down Iraqi guerrilla fighters and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime."

I don't know what this Major does all day long, but I do know that my husband is currently out in the field training to man vehicle checkpoints, learning to spot suicide bombers, and practicing raiding houses. This will be his job in Iraq, despite the fact that it is not the job he should have as an armor officer. I imagine the Major's days down range are similar to his days before deployment, but a soldier in this particular war is learning new survival skills every day.

Emotionally, I'm very disappointed in this Air Force Major. To the untrained ear, it sounds like some sort of inferiority complex: going out of his way to remind an Army wife of what dirtbags soldiers are. Yes, I know some soldiers are dirtbags. Remember that some soldiers can opt to be all that they can be instead of facing jail time (last I heard they don't have the option of choosing to "cross into the blue"), and since there are many more soldiers than airmen, there will naturally be more bad apples to assimilate. But to lump them all together as uncreative, slovenly hooligans, and then compare their value system to that of the Middle East, for godsake, seems vindictive and unbecoming of an officer, to use the oft-quoted phrase.

Soldiers look at Air Force facilities, with their DVD shelving and concertina wire, and sneer because they feel slighted that their "sister service" is at summer camp instead of deployed to a war zone. What reason do you have, Major, for sneering at the Army?


Tim over at CPT Patti has some words of wisdom on how the mission dictates everything. He wrote to me and said something that I won't forget for a long time: "We ask something of our Soldiers and Marines that we rarely ask of our Airmen and Sailors. We ask the grunts to look a man in the eye while killing him."

There's lots going on in the comments to check out if you're interested...

Also check out the torch passing to CPT Patti.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Oh mercy, as my grandma would say. My sides hurt from laughing. Loveinwar has a great list of suggestions for "things you can do right in the 'comfort' of your own home to give you that deployed feeling." Maybe I can try a few of these while the husband is gone. He left me a box of MREs, so I can at least start with them!


My mother caught me this morning in Germany, last night in the Midwest, to let me know she had just seen Chief Wiggles on MSNBC. It's amazing that the Chief casually mentioned in an email that he wished he had more toys to give to the Iraqi children, and an organization was born. Postal issues were resolved, corporate sponsors were recruited, a website was created, and an entire charitable organization grew overnight.

It could only happen in the United States...

Monday, October 27, 2003


Deskmerc posts a rant from Michele, someone I'd really like to make friends with:

"I'm tired of being angry at everyone; angry at the people who want to pull our troops out of Iraq, angry at the current administration for not doing enough to protect our homeland. I'm angry at the PC police who want to sanitize everything we do, and I'm just as angry at book burners and the morally righteous. Is there anyone else in this limbo with me?"

I too feel the weight of this limbo. Deskmerc eloquently likens it to a sandlot game, where you have to be on one team or the other, and there's no room for the kids who don't conveniently fit in. He goes on to say:

"An unfortunate (or fortunate, depending) side effect of this polarization is that has become easy to use these labels as tags. These tags mean different things to different people...so when you say "the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed" marks you as Conservative, regardless of anything else you espouse, unless you say "1st trimester abortion without parental approval is a damn good thing" and then you are Liberal, entitled to be spat upon by one side and praised by the other. If you spout both opinions, then you are roundly despised by both sides...you can't even make up your own mind! Never mind the logic of it, or the apparent contradictions, the hypocrisies, this is human nature we're talking about, and it is very human to pick sides and wear a uniform and try to beat the other team. And if you can't play by our team's style, then you can't play on our team...but vote for us anyway, because you are stupid."

I struggle with the limbo simply because of my demographic: I'm a 26-year-old female with a Master's Degree. I should be as far Left as all of my friends from college, but I'm not and never have been. (If I'm anything, I'm an Eagle, but unfortunately that's not a political party.) Michele, I too am "tired of being angry at everyone," tired of not having anyone to talk to about important things in the world, tired of grasping at other bloggers hoping to find someone who understands, tired of realizing that most of the people in my life are idiotarians, tired of defending my country's position on the War on Terror, tired of explaining that war is sometimes the answer. I'm just plain tired.

The thing I fear the most is that this feeling will never go away. I worry, because as I get older and more involved in world events, my worldview gets more and more bitter. I worry for our soldiers, I worry for the Jews, I worry for the children, and I worry that I will never again feel safe and comfortable in this world. I worry that I am doomed to worry for the rest of my life.

Two summers ago I was visiting extended family and watching some of my young cousins play together. One pre-teen boy wrapped a towel around his head and was chasing the other kids, saying, "I'm Bin Ladin, coming to get you." That was the moment I realized we're living in a different world. When I was a pre-teen, Communist was the buzzword. Now it's Terrorist. Our world has changed so much in the past two years after 9-11 -- coupled with the fact that I've been doing most of my serious personal growth and searching these days -- and Foreign Policy could hardly seem more important to me. Consequently, I'm having a really hard time finding my place in the world. Michele, I'm also in voting limbo, trying to decide if the lesser of two evils is Constitutionalized Definitions Of Marriage or How Fast We Can Implement An Exit Strategy.

My life is plagued with worry. I worry that people don't take the War on Terror seriously enough. I worry that our elected officials will be too PC to do what's right, I worry that we'll be forced to leave Iraq before the job is done, I worry that we'll be stuck in Germany long after the job is done, I worry that some jackass will drive an ambulance of explosives into yet another building today, and most of all I worry that when my husband goes to Iraq I won't have anyone close to me who understands how I feel.

I worry, Michele. I worry.


Ah, but it might not be as bleak as I think! Tyler Cohen points to a survey from Harvard; the results indicate that college students are more conservative than the general public. If so, then why is it the liberals that seem so vocal on campuses?


A suicide bomber just drove an ambulance full of explosives into the Red Cross in Baghdad.

I'm reminded of this paragraph: "The terror attack of 9-11 was not designed to make us alter our policy, but was crafted for its effect on the terrorists themselves: It was a spectacular piece of theater. The targets were chosen by al Qaeda not through military calculation — in contrast, for example, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — but entirely because they stood as symbols of American power universally recognized by the Arab street."

An attack on the Red Cross is a piece of theater. It is disgusting to think that someone would attack a hotel and a Red Cross just to prove a point. Sometimes I don't understand why we even bother playing by the rules; obviously our enemies don't...


Now it seems they've also struck four Iraqi police stations. Why are they destroying their own country? Some sort of twisted Ramadan celebration?


You're right, yak, at least one of them is Syrian.

Sunday, October 26, 2003


The husband has been packing all day for a month in the field. He leaves at 03:00 for a week full of 30 degrees Fahrenheit and rain. When he's gone, it'll be just me and my blog...


Parkway Rest Stop is a really cool blog that I discovered when I was directed to this excellent definition of blogging, and apparently James also has a military connection (heck, I'm finding that nearly Everyone in the blogosphere has a military story to tell!) Seems he was a recruit in 1968 and has compiled a few stories from his Army days. I've read half of the stories so far (saving the rest for a rainy day), and I think they're more than worth sharing. I'm getting a kick out of reading them, and I'm sure that those of you who were in the Army at some point will get tickled even more than I am. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2003


Just to point out a very funny piece of news, via The Genius I Was, that happened here in Germany. Actually, it almost happened here a few days earlier while I was watching Joe Millionaire, but it's a brand new TV and I was on the first floor...


I haven't yet written anything about the toy drive that Chief Wiggles has organized. The reason I was leery about promoting it or participating was memories of the warehouse of unused toys and donations after 9/11. Judging from the response to his toy drive, I thought he'd be overwhelmed.

HobbsOnline makes a good point though: "Some people care. Others, who opposed the liberation of the people of Iraq, say things like this: I'm really not interested in hearing one more thing about crayons for the little children.
That's sad. And revealing. I'd bet the children of Iraq are far more interested in crayons and toys, and their long-term views of America (and, thus, our success in the War on Terror) will be far more influenced by a package of crayons or a box of toys than whether Bush said Iraq was an "imminent" threat or said the opposite, or what bloggers think about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, WMDs, and the Rumsfeld memo."

He's right. The US should NOT make it a goal to be loved by other nations, but it's true that American generosity towards Iraqis will go a long way in nation-building, especially in the eyes of the young children as they grow up. I'm glad Chief Wiggles managed to find a way to accommodate his toys program. Anyone who's interested should visit Operation Give.


StrategyPage has information on the first Medal of Honor since Mogadishu, awarded posthumously to Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith from 1st Brigade's B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion attached to the 2-7 Task Force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thanks to Vodkapundit for pointing this out; Readers From Other Military Blogs, let's spread the word around.


People are a little freaked out that Donald Rumsfeld's leaked memo was critical of the military's actions so far: "My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?" But as far as I can tell, this is normal in the military. My husband recently received an Army Achievement Award for his score at gunnery, but when he came home, he said that his commander was riding him for not getting a perfect score. The military has to be highly critical of itself all the time; that's how they work harder and become the best. Smash says this is normal, and Lileks says that we need to be more critical than we are (though Stryker takes a little offense to Lilek's comments.) One commenter at LGF posts a letter from her husband that addresses a touchy issue: we need to be more on the offensive than the defensive in Iraq right now. I agree with Rumsfeld that we need bold moves; I'd be more freaked out if Rumsfeld said, "Good job, we're almost done!" because that would obviously not be true. Our Armed Forces need less media scrutiny over their every move so they can do their jobs.


Citizen Smash wrote about the Iraq Donor's Conference the other day and the aid that has been pledged to rebuilding Iraq. Then today The Best wrote about the surprising array of troops from other countries in Iraq.

Interesting Point #1: Look who's missing from both lists...rhymes with Pants and Schlermany.
Interesting Point #2: Notice how many other countries are supporting this mission. Not so unilateral after all.

The Best is right: real friends/allies work together towards common goals and don't have to constantly remind each other that they're friends.


Woah. Looks like we're not the only ones who hold a grudge against the Axis of Weasels. Seems Iraq will remember their actions too. Thanks, Vodkapundit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


I wanted to write about watching the new Joe Millionaire last night, but I thought it would be petty to just write that all of these women irritated me to the bone. But then I saw that Smash had written this:

"Not only are these women shallow, gold-digging Euro-trash, but they all seem to harbor some very nasty anti-American prejudices. Did you see the looks on their faces when they were told that their host was a "real American cowboy?" It got even worse when it was further "revealed" that he was the son of a Texas oil baron.
Of course, they all cheered up a bit when they were informed that he was worth approximately $80 million.
I hate them all. And I'm going to enjoy watching them suffer. In fact, my only disappointment is that none of them are French.
Does this make me a bad man?"

And I had to write and tell him he's not a bad man, because I had the exact same gut reaction.

I actually watched the entire first Joe Millionaire show. I thought the idea behind the show was hilarious, and it was like watching a train wreck: I kept coming back for more every week. So when I saw that they were duping European women this time, I thought I'd check it out last night. But, really, this second one is worse than a train wreck; it was painful to watch.

Being a foreign language teacher by trade, I hesitate to make assumptions about people based on their performance in a non-native language. I know that sometimes messages can get twisted when they come out in your foreign language, and that someone's intelligence should not be judged based on their abilities in a language that's not his own. That said, some of the things that these women said sounded so shallow that I'm inclined to believe that their attitudes might shine through in any language. Smash is right; if you didn't see the show, you can't imagine how snobby these women came off. When they announced that this fellow is a cowboy, the women's sneers were plainly visible. They groaned and grumbled about how they thought it was a joke and they thought cowboys didn't really exist or only existed in Hollywood. One lady even said, "I wonder if he stays on his ranch all the time or if he takes time out to go clubbing and stuff." Dang. But when they announced that he was rich, the women actually cheered; their complete change in attitude was staggering once they found out he was not just some low-brow American but a Real Live Multi-Millionaire. All of a sudden it didn't seem to matter too much to them that he came from Texas.

In the first Joe Millionaire, the American women expressed hushed excitement and anticipation at the news that he was rich; the American women knew that American mores include pretending to not be excited by signs of wealth; secretly they might have been as greedy as imagineable, but they knew that social standards dictate that they hide their excitement. Someone's net worth is not supposed to be important to us Americans, so these women knew that they shouldn't appear too interested in the money. They often made statements about how everyone would love to have money for travel and security, but that it was not the most important criterion for finding a boyfriend. What I noticed in the show last night with the European women was that they did not show any signs of sharing these particular mores with us. They were toasting each other with champagne and exclaiming excitedly that they want rich boyfriends to buy them whatever they want. One woman even said something like she'd sit on a ranch eating ranch dressing all day long if he were rich. The behavior seemed incredibly crass to traditional American eyes.

I know the caliber of women who go on these types of shows might not always be indicative of trends in their respective countries as a whole. I certainly wouldn't want anyone to make assumptions about me based on that goofy MoJo girl from the first Joe Millionaire! But I couldn't help but notice that these women as a group acted quite differently from the way the American women acted in the first version. These women seemed not to don the cloak of pretension we wear in the US when we talk about rich people, which I find interesting since the ones who seemed most money-hungry came from Sweden, a country where extreme wealth is looked down upon and where all Swedes should all operate under the common mores of lagom, where moderation is best.

I doubt that the women in the two different versions of Joe Millionaire actually think differently; they were probably all completely thrilled to find they had the possibility of landing a millionaire. But I did notice that the American and European women had very different reactions upon learning the news. And, speaking as an American, the European women's reaction seemed trashy and superficial. I have a feeling that cultural differences are going to translate very badly in this Joe Millionaire, and that Americans are going to come away with a very poor image of these women based on American mores and social codes.


So somebody explained rather harshly to me in the comments that all reality shows are staged and scripted. OK. Despite the fact that I could not find any evidence of said lawsuits against Joe Millionaire, I have to wonder: why would they stage this? Because the first one turned out to be lovey-dovey with a happy ending and they had to have more money-grubbing bitches to make this one exciting? Did they also write the ESL grammar mistakes into the script? I stand by my opinion that these European girls are much more open about their greed; if it's scripted, then what purpose does that serve? Making Americans think less of Europeans? Making us hate the girl contestants even moreso than last time? If our entertainment has come to the point where we're producing Scripted Reality, then count me out.


LGF points out an interesting article about the lack of qualified Arabic translators in the FBI and military. (Ack, why did I waste my time learning French and Swedish? If I had only known ten years ago to learn Arabic instead....) Why are we as Americans wasting our time learning French and Spanish in high school when we should be learning languages that would be helpful for getting jobs or making a difference in the world?

Of course, I might need to hold on to my French skills, just in case we ever invade...

But the disturbing part of this article is found in the first paragraph, supplied simply as an anecdote to open the article:
"The clash of civilizations rages in some surprising places, and one of them is the large room in the FBI's Washington, D.C., Field Office that houses a unit known as CI-19. In one set of cubicles sit the foreign-born Muslims; across a partition is everyone else.
They have the same vital job: to translate supersecret wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies. But the 150 or so members of CI-19 (for Counterintelligence) segregate themselves by ethnicity and religion. Some of the U.S.-born translators have accused their Middle Eastern-born counterparts of making disparaging or unpatriotic remarks, or of making "mistranslations”failing to translate comments that might reflect poorly on their fellow Muslims, such as references to sexual deviancy. The tensions erupt in arguments and angry finger-pointing from time to time. "It's a good thing the translators are not allowed to carry guns," says Sibel Edmonds, a Farsi translator who formerly worked in the unit."

Um, excuse me? Foreign-born translators refuse to sit with American-born translators and intentionally mistranslate information so that it doesn't make Muslims look bad? Shouldn't this set off Enormous Warning Bells for lots of people, mainly because we've already had too many problems with people named Asan Akbar, James Yee, and Ahmed Fathy Mehalba? I know our supply of Arabic translators is being exhausted, but somehow I think we shouldn't sacrifice safety.

We need to encourage more young people to study Arabic and get them into government service as soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


I've been spending all week blogging when I get home from work, to the point that I realized I've been ignoring the husband. Since he leaves on Monday for a month in the field, I've decided I'm not posting anything this evening and spending time with him instead.

But go read the last day of the Stars and Stripes series.
And then write them a letter and tell them how good the series was.
(letters -at- mail -dot- estripes -dot- osd -dot- mil)

Money quote:
“Everybody here joined for a reason higher than ourselves,
but having this experience makes you understand what your oath means."
“As long as your buddies are alive, life’s good.”
Specialist John Stubbs, 20 years old


For the past year, the husband and I have gotten increasingly upset with Time and Newsweek. Our subscription to Newsweek has run out, our Time will run out soon, and we're not renewing. We can find the news online and not have to wade through the blatant quagmire junk that's pervading most of the articles these days.

But this one takes the cake.

The Best writes about an article by Martha Brant where she laments the fact that the Department of Defense won't allow the media to take photos of dead soldiers' coffins being unloaded at Dover Air Force Base. Brant thinks that if we got to see dramatic photos of servicemembers' coffins, then we'd all come to our senses and get out of Iraq, like, yesterday.


Den Beste summarizes her inane assumptions about What Americans Need To Be Shown In Order To Form The "Right" Opinions:

"It doesn't seem to have occurred to her that the majority of Americans fully understand that we're taking casualties in this war, but also understand that it's a price we must pay. It's terrible and horrible and dreadful and awful but also unavoidable, and no matter how bad it might be it is not as bad as what would ultimately happen if we did what Brant clearly wants.
There are people who are so convinced of their conclusions that they assume that no other answer is possible. If others seem to disagree, it's because those others just aren't fully aware of the situation, and must have it explained to them. And if the others still don't seem convinced, then it will get explained again, and again, only louder each time.
It doesn't occur to such people that someone else might have just as good an understanding of what's going on but still come to a different conclusion. Brant doesn't seem to recognize that someone can have exactly the same data but still come to different conclusions."

Brant says that the Department of Defense is engaged in "media manipulation" by not showing coffins, so that they "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative," according to veteran war correspondent George Wilson. I'd argue that at least the Department of Defense can try to balance out the mass media, which is trying to accentuate the negative and ignore the positive. That's why we get headlines like "US soldier killed in Iraq ambush," "2 US soldiers killed in heavy Iraq attacks," and "Two troops die in Iraqi ambush on US convoy." Show me how these stories better "accentuate the positive" than stories about building infrastructure in Iraq?

I can't stand reading this crap from journalists and I'm certainly not paying to subscribe to it anymore.


Marine Girl still has me thinking about many important things. First of all, I feel I should say that this blog is a reaction to things that are happening in this world in the political arena. It's a blog that's been months in the making, and everything that's prompted me to create a blog has been political. Therefore, it's probably not going to be an account of how I feel while the husband's gone to Iraq. Being affiliated with the Army makes the politics hit us on a more personal level, and I do have some insight into how this war on terror affects one American family, but my main goal is to make some sense of the world we live in.

I'm sure there are some readers who don't understand the name of this blog. The verb grok comes from the book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. It's a fictional word used by Martians that has no true English equivalent; it means to understand something fully and completely so that it becomes a part of your knowing. I like that word. You can understand something without grokking it, but you can't grok without complete understanding. I'm trying to grok the world, and sometimes I just can't. When I can't grok, I write about it here.

Yesterday I wrote about the enormous influence spouses have over their husbands in the military. I don't even think I want to touch the subject of the influence politics has over servicemembers. My husband and I are lucky that we do agree with the principles behind this war in Iraq and are willing to back up what we believe. (I won't start writing about all the reasons here, but if you're interested in my line of thinking, Steven Den Beste has power-packed articles called When Should You Fight a War, What Are We Fighting For, and A High Level Strategic View of the Cause of the War.)

We live in the greatest country on earth. But there's a reason for her greatness: people are willing to fight and die for her principles. Ultimately, that's what draws me to the military and is the reason I wish I were a soldier. My husband's job in the Army is repayment for all of the freedoms and rights we as Americans have, but sometimes I feel that his contribution is not enough. Both of us benefit from being American, yet he's the only one who really has to sacrifice for those benefits. It makes me feel like a backseat driver, and I wish there were more I could give back to my country in exchange for everything she has given me. There are times when I feel deeply guilty that my husband is doing all the work to protect my way of life as an American. Our servicemembers give so much, and in return we all reap the rewards. Sometimes I literally weep when I think of how unfair it is that a small part of our population works 365 days a year to protect other Americans' right to criticize, belittle, and reject their sacrifice.

My husband and I support our country and her goals in the war on terror. We believe that cultural cross-pollination is possible in the Middle East, and that in the years to come our world will be a better place because of this war in Iraq. Look at what Germany and Japan have become in the past 50 years; I'm so proud to think that my husband will be instrumental in bringing those kinds of possibilities to Iraq.

And I truly believe that a world that includes a democratic Middle East is worth living one year of my life alone.

Monday, October 20, 2003


Still haven't formally come to a conclusion on what I think of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, but Volokh argues some interesting points here.

Volokh also points out here and here that an Indianapolis high school has cancelled the play they're currently working on because some parents and the NAACP protested that it was racist. The play? To Kill a Mockingbird. Being that this is one of my favorite books ever, and being that it is Most Certainly Not a racist book, this shocks me. I think Harper Lee's insight is phenomenal, considering she published the book in 1960. Atticus Finch is one of the most extraordinary characters of all time, and it disgusts me that some people can't look past the n-word to see the big picture.

As the husband eloquently put it this evening,
"If To Kill a Mockingbird is racist,
then Schindler's List is anti-Semitic."


The newest article in the Stars and Stripes series is about re-enlistment rates. The military says it has not seen any significant peaks or valleys, and that recruitment is still as strong as it was in pre-war times. That's good news for all branches.

The most interesting and relevant thing to my life is found in the blue bar to the side of the article: the role of spouses in re-enlistment.

Some wives are supportive:
“The other day, I had a soldier who wouldn’t even talk to me,” said Sgt. Andre Taylor, re-enlistment NCO for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd ACR, based in Fallujah. “Then he called his wife, and she told him, ‘You need to stay in. You need to take this assignment,’ and he signed the contract in 30 seconds,” Taylor said.

Others are not so thrilled with the military:
“My wife and I had a deal before I came. If I didn’t make the [promotion] list, it was time to go,” said Staff Sgt. Greg Brobst out of Fort Carson, Colo.
Just because he’s made sergeant first class doesn’t solve one elemental problem: He loves the Army while his wife, Kim, hates it.
She hates it because “she thinks I’m wasting a $40,000 education,” said Brobst, who has a degree from Penn State.
“I love my wife. I love my job. And somewhere in between is where I walk.”

I've only been a military wife for 16 months, but I have seen the wide range of spousal support. Some wives blatantly denounce the Army to anyone who will listen, saying they hate it and they can't wait for their husbands to get out. Others don't mention those facts until we're behind closed doors; they try to be supportive but secretly wish their husbands had chosen another line of work. Some wives enjoy the military life and always try to be optimistic about anything the Army throws their way, enjoying the benefits of free health care and no taxes and patiently waiting for that grand retirement payoff. But I have yet to meet anyone else who feels like I do.

My husband has forbidden me from enlisting, but secretly I long to. I understand his point: it's definitely the wrong time in my life to make that choice, but if I had done things differently five years ago, I might very well be a soldier myself. The Army has given me something bigger than myself that I can believe in. Some people turn to religion to find peace and personal fulfillment; I turn to our Armed Forces. I like being a part of a greater good, an establishment older even than our country herself that really makes a difference in the world. I want to know everything my husband does in his job, learn every acronym, memorize every military vehicle, live vicariously through his experiences. My greatest fear is that my husband might not want to stay in the military. (But if the Army turns out to not be the job he wants to do for the rest of his life, I will accept that and be supportive of him.)

I know that a spouse has great influence over her husband's well-being. Soldiers who are worried about their families are not effective in their mission. This is a big issue during deployment time; a wife's greatest role is to pitch in to make the mission successful by clearing her husband's mind of troubles. Those of you reading who are also military spouses will understand when I say that the best thing I can do for my husband right now is be strong and independent.

He got his DCUs today (his desert camo uniforms). I tell him they're cute and I remark that he'll no longer have to spend time shining boots and I keep the situation light so that I don't think about him trying to blend in with the sand. And really, deep down, I'm not worried. I'll be OK while he's gone, and he'll come home safe and sound (his soldier said so the other night, so I'll hold him to it) and we'll be better people for it in two years. Whenever I get misty-eyed, I think about the children here on post, the ones who said, "Dad missed all of third grade and now he has to miss all of fifth too?" and I remind myself that the job of Military Child is so much harder than that of Spouse.

A pessimistic wife can harm morale. I'd be curious to see a correlation between the morale results found in the Stars and Stripes survey and how supportive the polled soldiers' wives are. We wield a mighty power over our husbands, and we do have a role in the military: to help our husbands stay focused on their mission.

I just wish that role involved wearing a uniform...


Marine's Girl posted an interesting comment here: "What if your soldier believes he was sent to Iraq by a dishonest President on a mission based on lies? I support my soldier too, he's been in Iraq since March with several return dates that passed. Now with no return date. Wait till your man gets over there, I doubt your view will be as rosy then. I understand how you are feeling now but know from experience how hard it is to be positive when soldiers like yours die each day and when you hear from him he tells you how they don't have enough to even eat or drink. My soldier works on the raids, he has yet to see a BurgerKing, takes canteen showers and worries if he will be supplied with enough drinkable water the next day. Make sure your soldier brings his own antibiotics with him too. Strep Throat is going around the troops in Iraq and there isn't enough medicine. :( "

To which I can only reply, with all due respect: Hmm. Well, luckily my husband doesn't think that "he was sent to Iraq by a dishonest President on a mission based on lies", so that's not really an issue for us. Both of us fully support the war in Iraq, and I'm proud of him for being a part of important changes in the world. However, I'm sure that our theoretical support for this war will be tested while he's there, because it's real easy to have ideas and beliefs when you don't have to test them out. We're just trying to keep things in perspective and remember the goal of this mission: a democracy in the Middle East will lead to less American deaths in the long run. And since Less American Deaths is our husbands' job, I truly believe the American military presence in Iraq is something to be proud of. I'm trying to focus on the positive (like Burger King) because dwelling on the negative at this point only makes it harder for me to see the Big Picture: these servicemembers are fighting so that their own country will be safer in the future.

Besides, I just comfort myself with AFN commercials and thank heavens my husband doesn't have to be a part of WWI, WWII, or Vietnam. Canteen showers? I just saw a commercial about a Major who spent FIVE YEARS trying to escape from a POW camp in Vietnam. After seeing that, I have to consider myself lucky that the husband might simply be dehydrated...


Continues above.


As you all know, I have grown quite leery of the Washington Post, and I read everything they print with suspicion, expecting bias in every paragraph. I don't know what they intended with this new article and I don't really care what their motives were; it brought a huge smile to my face as I imagined the scene. Baghdad has a Burger King.

My favorite quote from the article: "'We're lucky if we can get over here once a month, we're so busy raiding houses and kicking down doors in the middle of the night,' said Miller, who bought $84 worth of food. 'When we get free time and no one is using the trucks, then we come out here.'"

Read the article -- the quotes from soldier are so vivid that you can imagine the smiles on their faces and hear their tummies rumble as they bite into their burgers. I like the image of the Sergeant struggling to hold his M249 and huge to-go order for his soldiers...

"Its sales have reached the top 10 among all Burger King franchises on Earth in the five months since it opened." Fabulous.

(Thanks to Deskmerc for pointing this out.)


A wonderful find over at The Volokh Conspiracy: a bumper sticker that reads

"If you can read this, thank a teacher....
If you are reading this in English, thank a soldier."

I want one...


The husband and I finally bought plane tickets home for two weeks at Christmas. Last night we were talking about how we're going to have to have the same conversation and answer the same questions for every person we talk to when we're home. We jokingly came up with an

Unoffical List of Questions That Are Off-Limits at Christmas

When are you leaving for Iraq?
When are you coming back from Iraq?
Will you stay there the entire year?
Do you get to take any vacation when you’re there?
How long do you think the American military will be in Iraq?
Where are you going to be in Iraq?
Is that where the Bad Guys are?
Will it be safe there?
What will you do there?
What will your wife do while you’re gone?
Why aren’t you taking the tanks?
What are you going to do without your tank?
Will you have to walk everywhere?
Will you have a gun?
Do you know how to shoot a gun?
Will you be able to use the phone?
Will you have email?
Can you write letters?
Will you be living in a tent?
Will you be able to shower?
What will you be eating there?
Are you scared?
Are you nervous?
How does your wife feel about your leaving?

And besides Iraq questions, no one is allowed to ask these questions either:

How do you like Germany?
Do you speak German fluently yet?
When are you having a baby?
When is the next time you’ll come visit the USA?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

HE HE...

I think this should be posted on every blog for the next five years!!
Thanks for the directions, Sgt. Hook,
and thanks for the wisdom, Parkway Rest Stop.


They've done it again over at Stars and Stripes: another informative and balanced article about the evolving mission in Iraq. Some soldiers are mad that they don't understand their mission; others are confident that they can adapt easily to whatever comes their way.

I do sympathize with these soldiers. Nearly all of them are acting as MPs, not as soldiers. My husband has personally been trained as a tank platoon leader, and he'll be heading to Iraq without a tank. I can understand how soldiers might be confused about their role when they are taught to parachute or shoot and then find themselves building schools or running a store. Personally I think that's what UN soldiers should be for; let the UN troops handle the policing and guarding and let our American soldiers go out and find the remaining 18 faces on the deck of cards. Of course, that means we have to get UN soldiers down to Iraq in the first place (grumble, grumble).

But Reader J.M. Heinrichs makes a good point in his comment: "Ma'am, your husband has been trained to lead men; fighting his tank is secondary. When he gets to Iraq, he will be doing the job he has been trained for: leading troops to accomplish his designated mission. That's his job, the tank is thrown in to make it more enjoyable. Without the tank, he'll have to work a bit harder. But in the end, leading troops is the job, and that's where the job satisfaction comes from."

And once again, props to Stars and Stripes for at least mentioning some successes in Iraq:
"Although they have yet to find Saddam, coalition forces found and killed his sons, Odai and Qusai. Both were widely despised by Iraqis.
So far, troops have captured or killed 37 of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis. And nearly every day, units apprehend regime loyalists or suspected terrorists. They often find or are led to weapons caches.
U.S. forces also are helping train thousands of Iraqi recruits for a new army and police force."

I don't expect any of the media to whitewash the truth and say that everything is going swimmingly in Iraq. But these are True Successes, and they should be more widely praised.


Living in Germany means that most of what happens in the blogosphere happens while we're asleep. I saw my readership skyrocket yesterday afternoon, and it kept climbing while we slept. I just installed a counter last week, and I went from 53 hits in that week to 2492 overnight. And it keeps climbing. Now I know the true definition of being Instalaunched!

I also ended up getting blogrolled by some other military blogs. Check out LT/Citizen Smash and An Army Wife Life for more Army insight. And I got an email from another blogger who has done a very good fisking of the Washington Post article that everyone should check out here. He makes some important observations about the sneaky wording in the Washington Post.

He he, already at 2494 since I started writing this post, and all you people should be asleep! Thanks to everyone who's coming from all over the blogosphere, especially from The InstaKing's link. Come back and see me again sometime...

Saturday, October 18, 2003


Last night my husband and I went to the Battalion military ball, which turned out to be a lot of fun. At one point during the evening, I found myself in one of those situations that would never happen on paper: the high school valedictorian from the Midwest and a former gangbanger from Englewood dancing to a romping rendition of "Proud Mary" played by a cover band from the Czech Republic. When this soldier suddenly realized who I was, he exclaimed, "Oh, you're my LT's wife! Ma'am, I'm going to save your husband's life in Iraq, and we're going to bring him home safe to you next year." Just like that, without a hint of hesitation in his voice, he made me so proud to be dancing with him. And I realized that there's no better person to trust with your husband's life than the charming young man who's already been shot six times...


Once again, the Stars and Stripes comes through for us. Today's article in the series deals with the differences in amenities and conditions between the Army and the Air Force in Iraq. Stars and Stripes handles this delicate subject quite well, considering that there would be a lot of ways to bias this story. The Air Force personnel live like kings compared to the Army soldiers, but the article simply explains the various reasons for this discrepancy. No editorializing, no making excuses, no screaming and crying that things are unfair, just good quality reporting on the situation. They let the solders' and airmen's quotes speak for themselves.

And they leave the cries of unfair up to us Army families, not the reporters (wink)!


Just this morning I was talking with my husband about the seven-day series in Stars and Stripes, which covers the results of a survey done by 2000 servicemembers in Iraq. I remarked this very morning that my fascination with these articles was so great because they seem to be straightforward accounts of what the soldiers said. Stars and Stripes is not making excuses, not drawing conclusions, not pointing out Grave Injustices; they are merely reporting the results of the survey. I told my husband that I admired this sort of objective journalism, because you might expect a military-funded newspaper to slant towards a positive outlook.

So lo and behold this morning I find a link on Instapundit to the "troop morale story" and quote that I recognized from the Stars and Stripes. I almost didn't even click on the link, but when I did, to my freaking surprise, I found that Instapundit was not linked to Stars and Strips directly but to a summary article in the Washington Post that is about to make me smash in my monitor screen.

The title of the Stars and Stripes series: Ground Truth: Conditions, Contrast, and Morale
The title of the Washington Post article: Many Troops Dissatisfied, Iraq Poll Finds

The summary of the Stars and Stripes series:
"Between June and September, 2003, Stars and Stripes printed 200 letters from troops in the deserts of Iraq and Kuwait and other remote outposts that have led the fight against terrorism. Roughly 60 percent complained about various things, ranging from living conditions and problems with mail to redeployment dates back home. The remaining 40 percent urged the others to get on with their duty.
With so many voices clamoring for attention, Stripes decided to try to find out what the ground truth was in Iraq. Three teams of reporters were dispatched there to see for themselves what it was like to talk to as many servicemembers as possible, and have them fill out a questionnaire.
In this series, we present those servicemembers stories, covering an array of topics ranging from troops morale and changing mission to hidden benefits to deployments and suggestions on how to improve future rotations."

The summary in the Washington Post:
"A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist.
The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.
The findings, drawn from 1,935 questionnaires presented to U.S. service members throughout Iraq, conflict with statements by military commanders and Bush administration officials that portray the deployed troops as high-spirited and generally well-prepared. Though not obtained through scientific methods, the survey results suggest that a combination of difficult conditions, complex missions and prolonged tours in Iraq is wearing down a significant portion of the U.S. force and threatening to provoke a sizable exodus from military service."

Granted, the Washington Post is doing an overview of three articles, so their findings must be condensed, but what is so appalling about their article to me is the way they came to a conclusion about how servicemembers are feeling in Iraq based on three articles out of a seven-day series! You can plainly see on the Stars and Stripes outline of the series that the seven days cover The Troops Speak, What Defines Morale, Living In Iraq, Big Contrasts, The Evolving Mission, Retention and Benefits, and A Better Outlook. The Washington Post has taken the negative aspects of the first three articles and made its own conclusions about how crappy the situation is in Iraq.


The negative slant of the Washington Post article is staggering. For example, they cover an interview with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, where he said that "there is no morale problem." The Washington Post then highlights the percentages of soldiers who think morale is low, as if to show that Sanchez is lying or misguided. In the original Stars and Stripes article, Sanchez says that "complaints are 'an Army's normal posture. What would be the difference if we were back in [Europe] or Fort Hood or wherever?'" In fact, my husband and I were talking about morale in Iraq when he came home from a week in the field, and my husband said, "Obviously Iraq morale is low. Hell, my morale is low right now and I was only out for a week!" Getting three hours of sleep on top of a tank in bad weather with only MREs to eat is hard on anybody anywhere.

The Washington Post has not reported anything that is incorrect. But the way in which they present the data speaks volumes: "many troops dissatisfied", "complex missions and prolonged tours in Iraq is wearing down a significant portion of the U.S. force and threatening to provoke a sizable exodus from military service [emphasis mine]" and "about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value" -- simple math here indicates that two-thirds are not complaining about this, but that's apparently not newsworthy to the Washington Post.

My personal conclusion: Skip the Washington Post and read the news directly from the Stars and Stripes. They let you draw the conclusions for yourself and don't editorialize with headlines like "Many Troops Dissatisfied".

A great big thank you to Instapundit for providing a link to this story.

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