Wednesday, March 30, 2005

We Have Bad News, or No News

Has anyone else out there noticed that the MSM has gotten away from their body-count approach to reporting events in Iraq…in fact, a rudimentary scan of various news services today cultivated very little reporting from Iraq.

Hmmm, I ask myself. Is this because there is nothing going on in Iraq? Or is it because nothing “bad” is going on in Iraq? Even the over-exaggerated reports of the difficulties of the Iraqis to form a government are falling off the radar. So, as things seem to be improving, the news coverage is dropping off. Interesting that that in and of itself is not newsworthy.

Which brings me back to a point I have made time and again…the MSM players are doomsdayers and naysayers, and by covering only the negative aspects of Iraq they fail to give the military the credit they deserve for making the difference. As the US policy proves to be more and more successful, and Iraqis begin the process of governing themselves, coverage drops to nil. Conclusion, the MSM hates good, or even neutral, news.

Extending my argument a bit here…this is why their “body count” approach to “keeping score” in Iraq disrespects the sacrifices made by our troops. Because the payoff from those sacrifices is not reported, and just the raw carnage is, the press is using these images and numbers to sell papers, not to honor those who have helped achieve success. Their pictures of soldiers re-habilitating were not published as compelling human-interest pieces, but in my mind, as additional imaging that helps paint the negative picture that they intend to project. A balanced approach would ensure that the sacrifices made by our troops in the field were honored with appropriate reporting of the follow-on successes.


Shame on the MSM here…report both sides with equal enthusiasm and you will find balance and an audience. Continue to negatively slant your representations of the situation in Iraq and you continue to lose market share, credibility, and eventually, as your papers go out of business, your jobs. Get the clue.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bloggers as Journalists

Lots of good posts out there on the FEC/blogger issue.

  • Cap'n Ed
  • caught my eye with his Jack Shafer Takes David Shaw to the Woodshed piece.

    What I find completely bi-polar about Shaw’s and the MSM’s take on how much “free speech” bloggers should be allowed, is their reliance on the “fact checking” argument. I have no hope of taking Shaw to the hoop as effectively as Jack Shafer, but I can’t sit on my hands any longer.

    “When I or virtually any other mainstream journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column, for example. They will have checked it for accuracy, fairness, grammar, taste and libel, among other things.” (Shaw)

    I am sorry, you mean those fact checkers who graduate from the most liberal programs of the most liberal universities in the country? The fact checkers who checked Jason Blair’s work? The fact checkers who have allowed the dozens of completely false stories to be filed, and in some cases win Pulitzer Prizes? Those fact checkers that shield us from dangerous conservative dogma everyday, and make it impossible to pick up a paper or watch the six o’clock news and get a balanced take on a story about conservatives, the President, or the war in Iraq? I fail to see where those “fact checkers” have done such a credible job that they are the torch bearers for the First Amendment, and that the rest of us keyboard killers require closer government scrutiny.

    He glides past this crucial point by saying, “mistakes happen.” These have been found out to be, not mistakes, but determined efforts that can later be claimed to be mistakes. Blair was allowed to go on filing false stories long before he was kept from publishing and eventually terminated. Allowing a known fabricator to continue to publish is a “mistake”? Although no one says it out loud…Dan Rather’s publishing of the fake memos was an attempt to change the election. This is not a mistake…it was a deliberate act on his part and other players in the story to smear the President just weeks before the election. But it is covered up as a “mistake.”

    Geez, I don’t know how fifty things could have gone wrong and we got this story onto the air…I just don’t know.

    These are serious breaches in the trust that impact their First Amendment protection. You start breaching this trust (which they have) and you start eroding sanctity of your argument here. There is no “holier than thou” claim available to the MSM on this issue. So, unless the MSM can claim perfection, which they can’t, they are not in a different category, with sole claim to the protection of the First Amendment.


    And when they do make legitimate mistakes, what does the MSM do to correct them? They put the correction in New Times Roman 6 in the middle of the Want Ads. How is this approach to “getting it right” preferable to the clear corrections I have seen on Blogs?

    Akin to the mistake argument is the conscious lack of interest in pursuing stories that may cause the MSM to do damage control. The MSM, by ignoring these stories (Rathergate, Easongate, etc.), or being deliberately slow to react, prejudices their “unbiased” claims as they give a free pass to each other for lazy journalism. Lazy is the nicest word I can come up with. In reality, they are covering up these stories in an effort to protect their brethren. By ignoring these types of stories, or pursuing them with feigned interest, they give up their claim to the higher ground. They are no more credible than the worst of the bloggers, and they prove it time and again.

    Shaw’s compliments to the blogoshpere only make my point.

    “Certainly, some bloggers practice what anyone would consider "journalism" in its roughest form — they provide news. And just as surely, bloggers deserve credit for, among other things, being the first to discredit Dan Rather's use of documents of dubious origin and legitimacy to accuse President Bush of having received special treatment in the National Guard.” (Shaw)

    How could lowly bloggers break Rathergate, when all of the resources of CBS couldn’t figure out what happened in four months? Maybe it stems from a true desire to get the truth out into the open, when the MSM is doing its best to keep it from happening. Who has the most credibility?

    In the end, the question is who is making the best use of their First Amendment rights in getting the truth out to the public? Or bigger yet…what makes a journalist? Being employed by a paper or a station? I submit a journalist is someone who pursues the truth in any medium available to him, and does a credible job of doing it. If the NYT, LAT, CBS, WP are entitled to First Amendment protection what about Captain’s Quarters, Hugh Hewitt, Democracy Project and Major Mike? I think we’ve earned it, and I think they are squandering it.


    © Michael McBride 2005

    Monday, March 28, 2005

    Days Before VCRs, Chapter Four…Tactical and Strategic Innovations

    While envisioned early on by the helo guys as a combat multiplier, the widespread use of night vision devices to gain a significant tactical and strategic advantage, was not always the “given” it appears today. Championed predominately by the helo community in the late seventies and early eighties as the way of the future, the integration of NVGs into the cockpit was costly. Crashes across the globe garnered Congressional attention, and the program was in danger of termination several times along the way. The cost in terms of equipment and personnel was high, yet the community and the Corps persisted. Eventually effective training practices were standardized and accident rates and risks were reduced to acceptable levels. Safe training parameters, cockpit modifications, minimum flight qualifications, and realistic training objectives paved the way for the effective and safe program of today.

    Fixed wingers and ground forces also got on board. The overall investment, which was high in terms of men and material, yielded a huge advantage on the battlefield. The strategic and tactical implications of sustained night operations are dramatic. We are able to operate with impunity when a preponderance of the world’s forces must go into the defense…once in the defense; we have the ability to defeat them.

    Modernizing our small arms weapons was also key. I am sure I won’t convince the die-hard M1911A1 guys, but moving to a common NATO ammunition set helps smooth logistics flow to the troops in contact, and reduces the potential for error. Updating the M-16, getting the SAW into the rifle squad, adding more firepower with the M19, all have improved the lethality of our troops in the field.

    The Maritime Pre-Positioned Force helped improve response time to global crises, but it also created a focus on unit mobility and “mobility efficiency.” We simply got good at knowing what we needed to deploy, and then deploying it. Prior to this focus, deploying was a haphazard affair often resulting in essential equipment being left behind, unnecessary equipment being deployed when like equipment was available at the deployment site, and numerous lift aircraft sitting on our ramps waiting for us to get our clueless heads out of our butts.

    Finally, the necking down of equipment of all types allowed the Corps to become a viable business entity, while sustaining muscle. During that period we went from A-6s, OV-10s, F-4s, A-4s to one tactical jet; reducing parts supplies, intermediate level repair footprint, GSE, IMRL equipment, and personnel, while getting an improved tactical capability. Other such consolidations took place throughout the Corps, this approach allowed us to reduce form 196,000 to our current strength without giving up combat capability.

    Sometimes the clarity of the present belies the cloudiness of the past, and the rains of May ensure the rich harvest of the fall. Many Marines endured the gloomy and trying times of two decades ago, yet their professional approach to changing the Corps produced long-lasting and meaningful results. Not all of their efforts will be recognized, because many of theses changes have been so thoroughly integrated into the routine of the Corps, imagining their absence will be nearly impossible. In combination, the fundamental changes outlined over the past few posts smoothed out the many ruts in the road, and laid the foundation for the enormous success the Marine Corps has enjoyed over the past four years.

    This is not a shameless grab for glory, for the accolades today MUST be given to the Marines in the field, but somewhere out there, there are a lot of Marines who helped get the Corps out of the doldrums and set it sailing on the course it is on today. Our Marines have performed impressively…as expected, but in doing so they have raised the standards for the Marines that will follow…as it has been for nearly 230 years.


    © Michael McBride 2005

    Friday, March 25, 2005

    Canada Denies Coward Refugee Status

    Canada, in a move to protect the ferocity of their population, so they can continue to produce more hockey players than figure skaters, has denied Refugee Status to US Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman.

    Great call Canada...it is a first step in making it back into the real world. The real world with bad guys who try to do innocent people harm. The real world that requires defense by determined men and women. The real world where men don't desert their comrades who face battle. The real world where your actions have consequences.

    Send Jeremy home (the MSM conveniently drops his rank and calls him a former soldier), we'll see to it that he is treated fairly, and most importantly, serves as an example to other cowards who choose to quit on their obligations and try to subvert the good order and discipline of the forces in which they serve.


    You send us our deserters back, and we'll send fewer hockey players to take your jobs...promise.

    Days Before VCRs, Chapter Three...How I Learned to Quit Shopping at the Mall

    Does anyone else remember seeing F-14s painted with "Marines" on the side? Yes there was a time. The fleet of F-4s was aging, and there was no real multi-mission aircraft on the near horizen. So the Marines boldly jumped into the latest technology and bought F-14s, the first non-bomb dropper the Marines would own in 30 years. Crews were in the Replacement Air Group (RAG), planes were only months away from being delivered...excitment was high, and the program was cancelled. Thank heavens.

    The Marine Corps wisely dropped this program, which slid our F/A modernization about seven years, and caused the fighter types to grind their teeth and mutter alot. We continued to support carrier operations with F-4Ns into the early eighties! F-4Ns? The RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) community began to look for work...it was hell in fighter town...luckily I was flying RF-4s and would continue to be gainfully employed. The Marine Corps would wait its turn in line for the new F-18s, a single seat multi-mission aricraft that showed a lot of promise.

    This is probably the wisest hardware decision the Marine Corps has ever made. Had we purchased the F-14 we would have waited until the early 90s before it would be able to deliver bombs, and at an accuracy probably worse than the F-4s. We would be stuck with a maintenance dependent aircraft, crewed by two, with a huge personnel/maintenance footprint. It would have sucked Marine aviation dry.

    Instead we got a multi-mission aircraft with a reduced crew; with capacity growth; that was accurate to within 30', with a bad pilot; that shrunk maintenance departments year to year; and was about six times more reliable, creating sortie rates not even remotely possible for the F-14. It is a true combat multiplier...the F-14 was a stop gap. We would still be suffering with the F-14s had they been purchased. Truly a great management decison under a lot of pressure, at a critical time.

    Many have probably forgotten the acrimonious debates about buying the current 155mm howitzer system. The towed nature of the system and its perceived inability to keep up with tracked units, were viewed as strong detractors at the time. It was correctly assumed by the acquistion types and the artillary community, that tactics and ordnance could overcome these perceived deficiencies. Obviously, the artillary regiments have focused on the mobile battlefield and have adapted to the most demanding schemes of manuever immaginable. Additionally, improvements in munitions have made the gun even more flexible than originally envisioned. The tactical range of these guns, the lethality of newer munitions, and the evolution of regimental artillary tactics have made this a tactically viable and economical weapons system.

    Computers. 'Nuff said. The integration of the computer into daily Marine Corps life has been a hardware improvement whose entire contribution to the effectiveness of the Corps may never be fully measured. Most will not remember the gyrations of the schedule writers attempting to publish the flight schedule on a mimeograph machine, nor when the three typos/page rule would fill wastepaper baskets, nor the first deployable computer that was the size of a small fridge. The support of a unit was a labor intensive exercise that drained resources and detracted from training. The simplest reports today, were crushingly labor intensive exercises that pulled energy away from the mission. The advent of the computer allowed us to absorb the manpower reductions of the early 90s without debilitating our tactical capabilities.

    Tactical vehicle systems procurement has dramatically improved the tactical mobility of our troops and equipment. Hummers, Five-tons, and Dragon (Draggin', your preference) Wagons have all greatly enhanced the mobility and the tonnage capabilities of our ground lift. Improved reliability and flexibility has added dramatically to the logistical support schemes now available to the ground commanders.

    The Marine Corps began to move solidly to "requirements" based procurement and away from marketplace procurement, which lead to these significant tactical increases.

    Asset preservation is the operational compliment to requirements based procurement. The Marine Corps has dramatically reduced the aviation mishap rates...partially through improved systems, but predominately through an improved focus on safety. We had been losing all types of equipment in all types of ways. Over time, with an emphasis on personal responsibility and training safety, the Marine Corps became intolerant of waste and abuse. There were unscheuled changes of command, and repremands of all types, but eventually asset preservation and safety became integral parts of the operational art.

    Included in the discussion of asset preservation is the increased focus on the health and safety of the individual Marine. The emphasis on the care and feeding of Marines moved well past the occasional foot check on a road march, or the issuing of a case of C-Rats...yes C-Rats... for chow. Off-duty safety programs began to garner as much attention as operational safety. Use of reflective vests while running or driving motorcycles, insisting on seal belt use, DUI prevention, motorcycle safety training all became viewed as equally important peacetime initiatives as hydration and caloric intake would be viewed in combat. The preservation of our most important assets, our highly trained Marines, became a 24/7 focus, which besides saving lives, it keeps our force highly trained, and acutally safer in combat.

    Akin to asset preservation is cost avoidance. Base closures, force reductions, and necking down equipment types have all been complimentary activities that have garnered cost savings while maintaining the muscle of the Corps. The Marine Corps has learned to become a viable "business" entity in order to preserve its operational nature.

    The transition from parochial "rice-bowl" protection, to a logical, business based approach to asset procurement, sustainment, and retirement, has made the Corps a more viable combat organization. If the Corps can continue to make wise procurement choices, it stands to become even more lethal in the future.


    Next..the exciting conclusion.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Defending Your Right...to get screwed

    California...I love that state...takes a deployed Seal to the hoop...


    Gary has unsuccessfully battled the family court system in California, which has jurisdiction over the divorce, for almost two years in order to gain some access to SS (his son, my parens). After all, that same court demands he pay hefty child support.

    "I am paying $2,100 a month not to see my son," Gary told Fox News in 2003.


    This is the new face of father's rights, a face men's rights activists are determined you will see in coming months: the military man who is 'processed' by the family courts during his tour of duty or upon his return. A father who returns 'home' to children he cannot see and, often, to support payments he cannot make.

    "Sometimes I wonder what I risked my life for [in Afghanistan]," Gary told fathers' rights activist Glenn Sacks. I went to fight for freedom but what freedom and what rights mean anything if a man doesn't have the right to be a father to his own child?"

    Unfortunately, this is all too common. Yes, being married to a serviceman/woman is tough, but how do we allow these fathers to get screwed by the system while they are away defending our rights and freedoms? Are our servicemen and women perfect?...no, but do they deserve this kind of treatment? Leave it to California to decide that a fair child support payment, for which the state will do nothing to enforce his rights, will cost him a mere $2100 per month. How much do they think he makes? For that kind of money, he should be provided several round-trip tickets to Israel, where his ex-wife took his son.

    Our states often screw our servicemen in this way. Our states should be fighting for the rights of these fathers, and quit looking at them as checkbooks for insincere women who take advantage of the system. Fair is fair...visitation (enforced) for a reasonable amount of child support, but abandonment by a wife, during a deployment, should count against the mother, and the state should step in to argue for the absent husband.

    I won't hold my breath though. It warms my heart to see how well we "support our troops." Not.

    Days Before VCRs, Chapter Two

    Focus On Meaningful Training

    I am not sure, in spite of my immense talent, that I can adequately describe the poor state of training that existed in the Marine Corps in the late seventies and early eighties. The coherent, dovetailed, focused and realistic training that is commonplace today was merely a vision for most competent commanders and company officers. Training was unit driven, unfocused, not coherent between like type units, and most required training…rifle range, NBC, essential subject training, was haphazard or non-existent.

    My first assignment, in my first squadron, as a Second Lieutenant was as the assistant NATOPS officer. Essentially I was a glorified clerk, responsible for keeping the aircrew training properly recorded and notifying aircrew of upcoming requirements, such as; aircraft exams, flight physicals, Instrument Ground School, physiology training and swim refresher. My office was located within the S-3 shop, so I was able to observe first hand the additional training problems within the squadron.

    Here is what I personally found when I began to go over the records, AFTER the squadron had failed an FMFPAC re-inspection of their NATOPS (flight standardization) program…over half of the aircrew should have been grounded for lack of certified physiological training; over half did not have on hand a current open or closed book NATOPS exam; virtually no one had a current emergency procedures exam; a third had not been to instrument ground school in over a year; about one in ten did not have a current flight physical; no one had an up to date aircraft training manual; and there was no method for tracking changes; no one had current and certified aircraft egress training; and I was about the only dufus who had been to Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion (SERE) school…because they assigned me their quota before I even showed up to the squadron. Literally, every infraction should have resulted in an individual grounding. In spite of this, the commanding officer was not relieved, but you can certainly understand why the squadron had had nine Class A mishaps in the previous 12 months…sheer luck we didn’t kill anybody during that period.

    We were not atypical as far as training deficiencies. Less than half of the Marines had been to the rifle range, there had been no NBC skills training. Officers went to the pistol range kicking and screaming. If you went on leave you got assigned the “bad deal” training quota of the week such as Cold Weather Leadership, SERE, or Deep Water Survival Training. It was a mess.

    Aviation units were not alone. Company and Battalion Commanders complained of deficient Training and Readiness Manuals, training schedules and events that were unrelated to requirements in the T&R Manual, lack of training ammunition to support “required “ training activities, no continuity between squad level activities and larger unit training requirements, Combined Arms Exercises that did not completely integrate the ground and aviation elements, lack of individual training opportunities for Marines, and lack of a focal point for training activities.

    What changed?

    Fundamentally, training objectives became more focused, and “requirements” become supported. Specifically, battalion and squadron level training began to focus on the basic skills required to do their mission. Simultaneously, the Corps began to resource and support higher-level training. Consequently, there became a momentum within the training environment that took hold, and eventually raised readiness baselines to record levels…levels that have obviously increased since, and have resulted in the great successes over the past two years.

    Highlights

    First and foremost I would have to credit the Program of Instruction refinements at The Basic School, the Infantry Officer Course, Recruit Training, and School of Infantry. While I was an instructor at TBS in the mid-eighties, the POI was constantly being refined, but the focus was on deeper development of the basics and a move away from trying to teach Lieutenants “everything.” This focus on the fundamentals was also taking place in the other basic training arenas. I believe we began to produce better entry level Marines, whether officers or enlisted.

    Professional development became a priority. Attendance at appropriate level schools became a requirement…to the chagrin of many. Completion of non-resident courses became mandatory, and the equivalent to resident attendance. Marine Corps Institute courses became required for promotion and where a discriminator amongst meritorious promotion boards. Simply, we became a more professionally trained force. Little of this was happening in 1980…

    Refinements in the Training and Readiness Manuals for fleet unit training were also key. Prior to these refinements there were many disconnects between training requirements, resources, training opportunities, and range availability. On the aviation side, it was discovered that there weren’t enough flight hours available to keep everyone “combat capable.” By continually refining the requirements, moving some training flights to the simulator, and combining learning objectives across a variety of flights, units were able to ensure that wisely spent training hours, were translated into readiness. On the ground side, ammunition allotments began to fit requirements, unit training was refined to meet focused objectives among like units, ranges were built and developed to support specific objectives, and units were held accountable to meet individual training levels, so that higher level training opportunities were not wasted. I am sure these “refinements” are so much a part of the everyday routine, that it is hard to imagine the days when these disconnects produced gaping holes in readiness.

    The professional application and evolution of the Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation System helped validate the results. We were found “not combat ready” for my first deployment to WestPac aboard the USS Midway, but that was not a factor. As long as we were “carrier qualled” we were going. Throughout the eighties, the evaluation part of the readiness piece was properly integrated into the training cycle at a point where correction and recovery could occur prior to deployment. The teeth that MCCRES developed over time, gave the higher unit commanders the quality piece that was previously missing.

    Marine Corps Lessons Learned (MCLLs) system helped eliminate redundant training mistakes, allowing units to maximize their training opportunities by avoiding commonly made and debilitating errors. Units preparing for Combined Arms Exercises (CAXs), for example, were required to review the MCLLs from the previous CAXs. This simple information exchange kept units from repeating mistakes that negatively impacted training opportunities, such as range scheduling errors, transportation errors, and even tactical errors. This strategy allowed units to continually move ahead in training, eventually allowing for more advanced training opportunities.


    Finally, I think the refinements of the TBS “Three Day War” and the development of the Crucible at the Recruit Depots have gone a long way at exposing the Lieutenants and enlisted Marines to the arduous nature of ground combat. These exercises are the necessary “graduation” piece that imparts the realities of combat to these entry level Marines. It is extremely difficult in the fleet to string together the series of events that is required to produce this level of combat simulation, so this type of challenging training is hard to replicate, and exposure to these conditions prior to actual combat is a must.

    Plainly, those charged with training the Corps throughout the eighties and nineties did a tremendous job. I also credit many of the battalion and squadron commanders who fought to correct the multitude of disconnects that existed between the objectives, the plan and the resources. I promise, it was worse than I have described, and through shear will, Marines of all types pulled and pushed the Corps to the high level of readiness it now sustains.

    Chapter Three, The Shopping Mall, or How I Learned to Buy What I Need

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    Days before VCRs, Chapter One

    My thirteen-year-old daughter looked at me as if I had starred in an Alien movie when I recently mentioned that there once was a time when there were no VCRs. Her look convinced me that I had just parachuted in from another planet, and that I had at least six eyes and some tentacles waving about. “No VCRs, what did you do?”

    Interestingly, I believe that this would be the same look that many of today’s Marines would give me, if I fully described the shape of the Corps when I was commissioned in 1978. When I look back it is hard to believe some of the alligators the Marine Corps has wrestled to the ground over the last 27 years. The result of this wrangling is the current shape of the Corps, which I believe may be its acme.

    The Marines deployed throughout the world have done a superb job over the last four years. Their skill on the battlefield rivals any period of the Corps history, and they may indeed, claim that this is the finest group of men we have ever sent into combat. They prove it nearly every day.

    Plainly put, the Marine Corps was in sad shape in 1978. While we could still claim that we had the finest Marines ever, on an individual level, we had some of the worst as well. Training was disconnected from resources and reality. Procurement programs reflected a shopping mall mentality, vice a requirements driven process. Drugs were omnipresent. There was neither “high speed” individual gear nor improved weapons systems. There was little organization and much disarray. My first squadron had nine Class A mishaps in twelve months. It was a Wild West Show.

    Plainly put, we could barely get out of our own way. But the Marine Corps dug itself out of this hole over time, and looking back, it was no small feat. What were some of the things that got us back on track?

    Policy changes.

    Moving to an all-volunteer force, in combination with drug testing, moved us farther along than any other action. In short, the all-volunteer force eliminated, for the most part, the malcontents and whiners. Drug testing virtually eliminated what had been pretty brazen drug use. Together, they conditioned the people side for positive change. The volunteer basis of the force ensured that at its core, the Marine Corps would be populated by people who wanted to be Marines. Simple, but an absolute requirement to building a profssional team. The drug testing ensured compliance to a policy that correctly viewed drug use as a steep impediment to professionalism and success.

    Modifying enlistment terms to lengths that made operational sense was another key in the turnaround effort. Often units would prepare to deploy and lose up to a third of its strength due to personnel losses as FIRST term enlistments expired. By more closely tying enlistment lengths with initial training requirements and deployment schemes, units were able to deploy with the right troops who had the right training. Officer contracts in the aviation specialties also began to lengthen, so that most aviators would be eligible for two deployment cycles prior to their contracts expiring. This practice ensured that each deploying unit would have a highly trained "core" that would be able to tackle nearly any assignment.

    Development of the unit deployment scheme helped to establish a rhythm within the Corps that became much like a heartbeat. You began to know what to expect and when to expect it. This lent a lot of stability to the force and allowed for better personnel and asset planning. Integrating scheduled Changes-of-Command began to eliminate the disruption that irregular, or short notice COCs created. This rhythm began to reflect all of the cycles within a unit; turnover, training, deployment, COC, turnover, and on and on. The rhythm cushioned the disruptions and brought a certain "flow" into the blood of the Corps.


    Together these policy shifts began to professionalize the manpower side of things, and it gave the Marine Corps the basis in which to begin molding a truly professional force, managed and led, in a professional way.

    Chapter Two…Changes in Training, to follow.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    Great Medal Site

    Not completely up to date, but some good overall medal info. I'll keep searching for better.

    Sunday, March 20, 2005

    The Coalition of the Unwilling Cowards

    I was greeted on page 2 of my favorite local compost binder, The Oregonian, with the following lead...
    "Soliders make up coalition of the unwilling"
    It was written by Monica Davey New Your Times News Service. I can't link to it, because they are not carrying it on the web, so hopefully, another OR blogger can back me up if required.

    The header is accompanied by two photos of our intrepid slackers SSgt Mejia and Sgt Benderman. Stories of daring midnight trips to Canada, ooooh frightening, and assistance from Vietnam burnouts and the War Resistors Support Campaign fill the article. It is a good 20 paragraphs in before any Army official has a chance to fill in the numbers...a whopping 92 CO applications in 2003. Early on the article does quote a Sgt 1st Class as saying, "Thre are a lot of people, many more than normal, who are tying to get out now." Obviously, this Sgt 1st Class is a personnel expert.

    Here is my beef. As we are looking back at our two year stint in Iraq, the intellectual MSM, unfulfilled in it desires to see us fail, are now pasting their printsheets with this anti-war tripe, and passing it off as news. There is no reason for this story today, except to diminish the impact on the positive things that have been accomplished over the past two years. If the Bush administration is going to point out the good...they will do their unwavering duty and point out the "bad." They are caught up in negative-reactionism journalism, which requires that all administration good, must be countered and punctuated with bad press. Geez, why has blogging caught on?

    Again, not a single photo of a soldier or Marine receiving an award. Not a single reference to any of the good that has been accomplished. Not a single interview with soldiers and Marines, satisfied with their service in Iraq, and not a single talk with a NG type volunteering to go back...I know of several here personally.

    No, the attention in this society is focused on the weak, the "victims", and the whiners, whose very existence is assured by the strong and the brave. Let them desert. Let them go to Canada. Let them wallow with their Vietnam era deserters, but don't celebrate it as some noble act that requires courage. It is an act of cowardice that requires only a bus ticket and the encouragement of fellow slackers, who quake from fear at the life and death challenges that face us all. A thirteen year old in a cancer ward has more courage than these collections of cells that merely consume oxygen.

    Volunteering carries with it the responsibility to complete the task volunteered for. It usually means you are helping someone who, at the time, cannot fend for themselves. It almost always implies hard, even arduous work, often in the poorest of conditions. Sometimes, particularly when one volunteers for military service, it involves great personal risk. This is why this country honors its soldiers, and rails at cowards. Walk the battlefield in Gettysburg and you will come to understand what sacrifice means...it is a far cry from some gutless wonder taking a bus trip from Texas to Moose Jaw.

    Quit honoring these slackers,...sorry but the Army and Marine Corps have always been about more than signing bonuses and college opportunities...they have been warriors first, and that is why we have our freedoms. If weak-willed persons had been allowed to walk away when the going got tough, it is likely Washington would have rode out of Valley Forge alone; that Iwo Jima would never have been taken; and D-Day would have been a miserable failure. Courage and discipline are the life's-blood of soldiering, let's honor that.


  • This post linked to the open post on The Mudville Gazette

  • The Mudville Gazette
  • Friday, March 18, 2005

    What Goes Around....

  • RadioBlogger is one of many who have the following quote from Barbara Boxer...


  • "Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so? It's the only check and balance on these people. They're in for life. They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary."

    Interesting...the Dems finally admit to misusing the filibuster in the Senate to block judicial appointments. Although the admission was not necessary, as even the most near-sighted, politico would have to recognize that tactic for what it was, it will be fun to replay over the denials we have endured over the past five years. I am sure Radioblogger and others are busy adding bytes to CDs that we will listen to well into the next election cycle...in two years.

    What Senate Dems are going to have to live with are a couple of things. First, they outright blocked the fair efforts of the President to advance many candidates from diverse backgrounds. Where does this leave the Dems when they claim to represent the poor and oppressed, as they themselves suppress the advancement of candidates of color? It leaves them scrambling to hold onto 40 seats in the Senate. The more they attempt to obstruct, the more the tide rushes around them. So sorry.

    Additionally, when the Republicans change the Senate rules next week, and out maneuver the Dems, they will have done it while operating within the rules of the Senate. As it has always been, a majority of the Senators can vote to change the rules. This is likely avoided in most circumstances because of the fear that the "rule changers" may, at some point, end up in the minority, and have the "new" rules used against them. But, as the Dems continue to slide out of the Senate, I see little fear in the eyes of the Republican Senators. In fact, I see a day when the Republicans will be happy to restore the old rules for the whining Dems, and be able to live with it, as they will easily have the 60 votes snap a filibuster

    Remember, this tactic would not be required, if the Dems had had their say in committee, and even in full session, then allowed a vote in the full Senate, where these candidates would have prevailed.

    Plainly put...the Dems thought they had the trump card, and were gleeful about the control they were wielding as the minority. They talked about this, as they had done about the recess appointments, they simply felt that the GOP would not pull the trigger on this option. Surprise...bluff called. Not only do you lose the judgeships, you lose popular support and seats in the Senate. Please boo-hoo as much as you want about the unfairness of it all. I love the drama.

    Full speed ahead GOP...don't slow up for a second.

    Thursday, March 17, 2005

    Political Correctness

  • Hugh Hewitt
  • had a first class rant in the third hour of his show yesterday. He was all over the page...he made the lie detector test of a Mafia boss look even. It was a beaut...

    He was disappointed that Tarzana Joe, poet extraordinarie, is not a finalist for the official State of California Poet Laureate. He attributes this to the pretty apparent PC quality of the list. Without knowing the individuals personally, I can't say whether this is true or not, but I have heard TJ often, and would be shocked that TJ couldn't make the final list in a fair process. So here is my take on PC.

    If achieving a PC solution is the goal, you will rarely achieve excellence. By focusing away from the primary objective...excellence in the outcome of any endeavor, you will almost always miss the mark. This is because you have subjugated the importance of excellence to other factors such as team composition, presenting a "neutral" position, avoiding offending people/groups...a near impossibility in today's PC environment. Once excellence is subordinated, it is only by chance you will achieve it.

    On the other hand, should excellence be your focus, there is a high likelihood that you can still meet most PC objectives. In building my current team I have hired two Asian technicians, two Hispanic technicians, and a female technician. I can honestly say, in each case, I hired the person who interviewed best for the position, and had the best qualifications. In my search for excellence, I was able to achieve a PC objective of team diversity, but it was an expected by-product of the process, not the driving factor. Another PC objective, sensitivity to other cultures, values, and points of view, was also achieved through the search for excellence.

    In my view, doing right thing usually means focusing on achieving excellence in an excellent way, and if you can do this, PC will take care of itself. In TJ's case, California will suffer, because their process may not yield the best results.

    Assassin, a Harvard grad and fellow trunk rider, had a great expression that I loved...
    "If the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the minimum." This works for old guys taking the PT test, but when it comes to poetry, it might leave us a bit disappointed. While Tarzana Joe may not gain the notoriety he may have, had he been selected, I know that he will continue to write great poems and educate us mouth-breathers periodically.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005

    The Italians Retreat

    Short and sweet...

    The Italians, showing no honor whatsoever, begin to abandon Iraq immediately after infusing our enemies with cash. Can anyone really decipher whose side they are on?

    Political Philosophy 102 ...I say I am your friend, but I give money to someone to beat you up...hmmmm, am I still your friend? Italian Logic Class 101, the prerequisite to Political Philosophy 102, says...perfectly OK.

    Can you say political expediency?

    Certainly, the sacrifices of the Italian soldiers must be recognized as equal to that of our soldiers, but to cut and run in this fashion, honors them little, and our troops will, again, bear the brunt of the load.

    I don't fault the President or his policies here, as it is becoming obvious that this coalition and likely all coalitions we can put together in the future will become the Coalition of the ...Squeamish, Uncommitted, Politically Adept, Morally Bankrupt, French Emulators, and (your adjective here).

    It is becoming clear that very few countries have the will to take, and back up, moral stances in the GWT...more than anything else, this is what will ultimately keep us engaged in this fight for the interminable future. Sad.

    When I call someone my friend, I know the person, and I know what he stands for. That's why I can call him friend, and why I can give him support when he is in need. In this measure of friendship, it is obvious we have few in this world. Not because of our behaviors, but because few other countries have what it takes to be a true friend to us. The Italians have clearly communicated what we mean to them. Likewise.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Subtle Pressure

    I am going to take a piece of one of SFAlphaGeek's stories out of context to reinforce my point about "high visibility" incidents garnering an ever increasing amount of scrutiny. It goes to the point, that because of the visibility generated by the Sgrena affair, it is possible (and based on my experience, likely) that our troops feel increased pressure while manning vehicle checkpoints. Check this bit out...

    "...When we got back, we talked it over. The gunner was terribly embarrassed - the Army conditions you to think of an accidental discharge (an AD), or what they've lately taken to calling an ND (negligent discharge), as a personal failing - something that might happen to a private in a finance unit, but not to an experienced SF operator...."

    I am sorry, but calling a like incident a "negligent discharge" before any investigation is conducted, implies that the discharger is guilty, and it carries such a heavy, negative connotation that it wouldn't shock me if some troops directly modified their behavior in some manner, in order to avoid committing this most henious crime. Should ADs be taken lightly, no, but in their zeal to eliminate ADs by renaming them more negatively, they do take a very real chance that at the individual level, measures have been taken to avoid NDs. Anyone who has been around troops for any length of time, with their eyes open, knows this. Most of the measures that will be taken will lessen their individual readiness posture.

    People make mistakes all the time, but in the end, solutions must reflect an outcome that balances the risks/penalties of the current situation with the risks/penalties of a future situation infused with a more restrictive (by direct order or by preceived pressure) operating scheme in place. It is important that those who get the "heat" for NDs, or perceived the "heat" from the Sgrena episode, that they only pass down "heat" that will actually improve the safety and readiness of our troops...not corrections that simply reduce the chance for another "high vis" incident, while potentially adding risk to those in contact.

    Sunday, March 13, 2005

    Reply to Tim Bossert, brother of Sgt Andrew Bossert

    I was reviewing my "comments" this evening, and I was faced with the difficult question that Tim Bossert posed to me. Tim is Andrew Bossert's older brother...Andrew is the Sgt I referred to in my last serious piece.

    Sometimes there is no clear explanation on the battlefield. Sometimes the pieces cannot be fully put back into place. And sometimes the best effort does not yeild the expected results. BUT, this is not an out for Sgrena and the US brass...we need to ensure there will be no second guessing our troops in the field who operate under established SOPs. Tim's comment is first...my reply follows. Any perspective from others, particularly in Iraq, I think would be helpful. If I am off base, please correct me. Sincerely, MM.


    Hello Mike. I have read your comment a few times on various other sites that quote your message and I must say, it has got me thinking and questioning a lot.My name is Tim Bossert and I am Andrew's older brother.
    My main question is "What is being done at these checkpoints so that something like this never happens again?" I thought our miltary had put in extra safties to help guard against a checkpoint bomb.
    Nothing I say can bring back my brother, but it makes things easier when a fellow soldier called the family and stated that Andrew did everything he was suppose to do and no mistakes on his part caused his death.
    On one hand, I hope that what you are saying is untrue. I hope that her placing blame on our soldiers does not lead to more direct deaths of this nature.
    6:12 PM

    Major Mike said...
    Tim,My deepest condolences to you and your family. Although I did not know Andrew personally, In my 20 years, I knew hundreds of Andrews. Young Marines (soldiers) professionally trained. Skilled and dedicated to the difficult tasks they were assigned. Whether it was working the deck of the USS Midway during difficult night ops, or gutting it out in training. Few real complaints, and a desire to do more. From what I have been exposed to, know that your brother was likey tight with his unit, tighter with his squad/platoon, proud of his service, and not likely to opt out of combat duty until his unit would be going with him. To me, and among soldiers, this is honor, and it is valued higher than any bit of ribbon that the government awards. I am saddened by your brother's death, and I know that a few words from me will do little to ease the sting of your loss, but know that your brother is now in the company of men that I hope will find a spot in formation for me when the time comes. I aspire to serve as nobley.


    To answer your question. It has been my experience, and I may need some support from out there, that generally...that a story such as the Sgrena story, well founded in its basis or not, brings additional internal scrutiny. I am sure that the forces on the ground have done everything they can think of to make the tedious task of checkpoint monitoring as safe and effective as possible. But looking good in the press is an unspoken concern. In my first briefing in Italy in 1994, the Rules of Engagement for Bosnia, were essentially suicidal. Before my wingman could retaliate for my A/C being shot down, he would literally have to leave the area and get persmission to remove the target...permission that wasn't likely to be granted. In my opinion, and what leads me to draw this conclusion, it was risk avoidance by the Clinton administration...being able to claim we were doing something meaningful, while indeed we were at great risk for no return. The risk avoidance piece is paying lip service to an issue (genocide in Bosnia) while and no one is paying attention, UNTIL you end up in the press...which is why we had the restrictive ROE. No incidents...no bad press...no one knows we are there. In the same brief, with a serious face, an Air Force colonel read the overnight traffic and said..."last night we recorded the 956th violation of the No Fly Zone." I found this more than ironic, and I personally began referring to it as the Some Fly Zone. The ROE did not support the mission objectives, because staying out of the press was a higher concern.

    Don't jump to conclusions yet though.

    In the end, and I think the bloggers "in country" can help here a bit, I think there are a ton of variables every time a vehicle approaches a checkpoint. Mostly, SOPs will ensure the safety of those manning the checkpoints, but occassionally the variables will fall outside the SOPs. This is where training and instinct will always be on our side. I believe all of our services do a great job in training, and I have the utmost confidence that your brother and his mates had the skills they needed to man the checkpoint.

    Which brings me to my last attempt to sort out what happened from this distance. Sometimes luck is the difference. I know, I was hanging out over the North Atlantic with two engines (out of two) on fire, middle of the night, new pilot, 420 miles from land...on the way to the first Gulf War. No good reason for me to be here...I have to credit some of it to simple luck. I know this is not much to hold on to, and given the words of the trooper who called the house, I have no other real explanation, BUT I wrote what I did because even the smallest seed of doubt by the troops in the line could cost them their lives. Sgrena needs to be aware of this and the heavy brass needs to be aware of this, so that our troops in the field WILL do exactly what needs to be done when the moment comes. I don't want them to hesitate because there is some hint of an investigation, or CNN is portraying all checkpoint soldiers as wonton murderers.

    The soldiers on these checkpoints ARE protecting our freedoms, one car at a time, they need our support and empowerment from the Chain of Command...I am hoping that they have both. They simply need to be able to do their jobs without the HINT of outside pressure...the Sgrena incident raises the specter of this pressure...I had to comment on it. Again, my sincerest condolences, and my humble attempt at an explanation in a situation where there may be no clear one. Please email me anytime.Sincerely,Major Mike

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Hockey Trip: Chapter 2

    Aforementioned boat anchor may not make the trip...who still owns a boot disk anyway? Plus ,battery seems to have disliked 2 years of non-use. I'll try to horn in on my roomie's technology and get something out in the next day or two.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Hockey Trip

    I am leaving tomorrow to link up with my hockey team from 1984...we play in a tourney in Vegas every year. I am older, slower, and more apt to get beat by a good forward, but these guys are part of my family...other hockey players understand this. I am taking my previously mentioned boat anchor (6 year old laptop) in and effort to work on my book and to blog...assuming AOL 3.0 can still access the internet. I will endeavor to blog, as I don't want to lose traction, if I am unable, please come back on Sunday...I hope to have a book review of "Speed is life, more is better" posted, plus whatever thoughts hit me over the weekend.

    My deepest sympathies to the Sgt.'s family mentioned below...that news has ruined my evening. Really, most of America cares. Sincerely. MM

    Roadblock Procedures; Why Americans Insist on Italian Compliance

    From Sus...

    and the following notice is exactly why nonresponsive vehicles get lit up at checkpoints! From the MilwaukeeChannel.com:

    "An Army sergeant from Fountain City has died in Iraq. Diane Bossert said the family has not been given a lot of details about what happened as yet, except that her son, 24-year-old Sgt. Andrew Bossert, was at a checkpoint Monday when a car went through the checkpoint and blew up, fatally injuring him."

    Question...are CNN and my girlriend Sgrena, going to write a letter to this trooper's parents explaining why he did the right thing in sacrificing his life at a checkpoint ,on the off chance that a freed journalist, who had a ransom paid for her that would subsequently escalate the insurency, who supports the insurgency, and slanders his actions...did the right thing in hesitating enough to sacrifice his life to terrorists? NO, they will hibernate in their journalistic shells and distance themselves through denial and plausible deflection. I literally cannot breath. This kind of heistation is brought by illegitimate scrutiny, caused by a self-centered and biased driven press, and it results in this everytime. A trooper, known but to few in the world is killed, and they insulate themselves because they did not know him personally.

    We know this Sgt., he is our husband, our next door neighbor, our son, our teacher, our brother. And we are supposed to modify our procedures because one SELFISH Italian journalist, who put hundreds of more weapons in the hands of the enemy, gets biased coverage from a US news company? Next time, I'll court-martial the tank gunner who misses the car. Her fredom and life is not worth this. READ THIS MSM. This is why you're losing market share...you don't support the very real people who give you the freedom to criticize them.

    Hugh Hewitt was right today...smell the fear. You are going down, because you fail to run every issue to ground and you give the free passes to those who you agree with, even though there is more journalism to be done...TO BE FAIR!!!! You're not getting the "fair" issue...finish each and every story, as is done in the blogoshpere, or you will be done in short order. Run the ransom story to ground. Run the impact of the Sgrena investigation to ground as it ties to this incident, or you have punted on your responsibilities. I don't expect it, but it will seal your demise.

    We don't have to wait around for the morning paper, or the nightly news to get our information. We are running circles around you and your info loops, and we're crushing you in the process. We are on the offense, not against you, but for the truth. Get there, or you are done.

    My deepest sympathies to this Sgt.'s family. Know that there are millions of us out here that appreciate his service, his sacrifice, and the sadnesses you will endure. We are here to support you and the cause he fought for. Additonally, we oppose the forces who demean his efforts.

    I could not be more bitter tonight.

    Blogger in WH; Sgerana wrap-up

    I am having a bit of trouble getting things to post...my original seemed to vaporize this am, so this is round deux...if they both post forgive me. The vast left-wing conspiracy has me under siege.

    The Oregonian surprised me this morning with an article on the second page about blogger Garrett Graff being given his WH press credentials. Garrett blogs for FishbowlDC http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/ . I haven't had a chance to check out his work, but great step forward for bloggers. I am sure the MSM is in denial with such questions as...Where did he go to journalism school? Did he pay his dues as the local beat reporter in some po-dunk town? Can he determine the authenticity of documents and rig a Chevy to explode? Let's see where this leads.

    Hugh Hewitt is right... www.hughhewitt.com the is an information revolution...MSM going to keep the ostrich act up?

    Michelle Malkin is doing a great job pressing the Sgrena story...good work on translations and finding that the Italians may have paid over $15M for various ransoms. http://www.michellemalkin.com/

    $15M in ransom? 15,000+ more IEDs in the game...More sophisticated triggers? Larger explosive yields? More homicide bomber death gratuities? I hope the Italian breadmakers calling daily for investigations have the stomach to run this to ground. This is the story...in the end, what did this money buy, and how many people did it ultimately kill? Any chance any intrepid MSM reporters will push this angle...don't hold your breath.

    I hope that Sgrena and her do-gooder Italian patriots, each night see the faces of the dead this ransom utlimately causes. Maybe then she will realize that here life is worth no more than that of a Cpl with a wife and child at home. Sleep well Sgrena.

    Blogger in White House

    I picked up my daily fishwrapper, the demo shill, the Oregonian, and on the second page I see that Garrett graff, blogger at FishbowlDC, has been given White House press credentials... http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/ . How can that be...does he have his degree in journalism? Has he done his time in the Metro section of the local paper? Has he had to figure out if documents were forged, or gas tanks would explode? He's only 23, my god, what a mistake.

    Watch out MSM...Hugh Hewitt is right...there's a new information revolution...don't miss it. http://www.hughhewitt.com/

    I am hoping this is the last time I have to write about my ex-girlfriend Sgrena. The lame and unfounded, psuedo-prostestations on her behalf, demanding apologies, investigations, and probably more money for her kidnappers, need to quit making their way into our press. The daily barrage of "Italy Demands Investigation," headlines are obliquely accusing our troops...theme familiar? Everyday these headlines are turning our well-trained, well-disciplined, and well-intentioned troops into monsters. MSM, knock it off...if you continually print this, you continually accuse our troops...is this your intent? If not, knock it off, for the 10th time.

    Michelle Malkin is doing some great work on cleaaring up translation issues and story changes by the lovely Ms. Sgrena. I think this is where the story will go next...Michelle has a strong lead on it. http://www.michellemalkin.com/ . She is also reporting Italy may have paid up to $15M in ransom over the past year. Which brings me to my last point this am.

    Even at $1000 a pop, which is probably way above market price, the Italians are responsible for at least 15,000 additional IEDs being in play. I guess I forgot, the life of one biased journalist is worth $15M, and potentially, the lives of15,000 troops, or more. Impossible to consider, but that is the reality of how the Italians, and the begging Ms. Sgrena, have changed the game. Wake up MSM this is the angle on the story that needs attention, not 15 more stories on Italian breadmakers demanding an apology.

    The thought of our troops suffering because one, pathetic and self-centered journalist, turns my stomach. I hope she is cursed by seeing the faces of the dead that can be tied directly to her release...hopefully at that point she'll understand, the trade for her life was a deal with the devil. Sleep well.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Great Air Force Blog

    Check out Air Force Voices http://airforceblog.typepad.com/ , LifeAchiever has a rockin' site, plus he mentions me twice, which automatically gets him a nomination for Blogger of the Year.

    Now for Something Completely Different - Caution: Marine Oriented Material to Follow

    This piece was written to celebrate the life of a unique and very personable man. It is also a tribute to the United States Marine Corps, which provided me with the opportunity to serve my country and to share in a camaraderie that few can appreciate. Although edited somewhat because of the time that has passed, I tried to change very little, so that it would have the same feel as when it was written. Leatherneck magazine declined to publish it when it was submitted, I feel they treated the piece as an obituary, rather than an introspective on my transition from the Marine Corps to my new, and vastly different, “civilian” life. It is dedicated to the individual that helped me recognize how special my previous career had been. It is one of my favorite pieces.

    Elwood “Al” Poff was killed in a car accident the evening of 17 April 1998. I don’t expect the name to be familiar to anyone reading this. Al was not famous. He was not a celebrity, but he was an important Marine. Not a general, nor a hero of any battle, he was, in fact a single term Marine who enlisted in the late fifties, completed his enlistment and settled in Portland, Oregon…which except for a few small recruiting stations and small reserve center, is virtually devoid of Marine culture.

    Al was an electrician for Precision Castparts Corp. for nearly twenty-five years. He worked for me a short six weeks before his death. In that time, however, I was able to establish a rapport and friendship with Al that will take much longer for me to establish with the rest of his co-workers.

    We shared the title…Marine. That said a lot without having to say it all. Because of our common ground we could easily get several “sea stories” into a fifteen minute break period, leaving unsaid all the things Marines, regardless of generation, understand.

    He frequently reminded me, with more than a little sarcasm in his voice, that he was a “Hollywood” Marine, trained at MCRD San Diego vice MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. There was nothing “Hollywood” about Al Poff. The metal tips of his safety boots (cowboy in style) shone though the worn leather of both boots. Although he possessed a much newer pair, he preferred those boots. I suspect he preferred those boots because they were trusted friends and were gentle to his aging frame, and because our shop safety steward, two generations removed from Al, insisted they be retired. His wearing of those boots ensured a daily, friendly exchange with his co-worker. His tough, but tired body was robbed of its dash by a stroke 12 years ago and never did yield the √©lan imagined of a self titled “Hollywood” Marine. His sarcasm here belied a clever wit.

    I am certain that given an M-1 rifle, the pieces would be removed and organized into an inspection worthy display, with little effort and a smug grin…as if such a skill is routine to all the world. He (of course) readily recited his Drill Instructor’s names, his service number, and his rifle serial number from boot camp when asked. Things Marines just don’t forget. No, Al Poff, regardless of his halfhearted insistence, was no “Hollywood” Marine, but he was every bit Marine.

    Al had lost his dogtags, and he almost lost his faith in Marines. His previous request to a local recruiter to replace his Marine identity went unfilled. He was too proud to ask again. It was one of the first things Al told me. A heartfelt thanks to the Marines at Marine Forces Pacific, who filled that request, and to my wife (now ex-wife…long story), also a Marine, who delivered them to me just a week before Al was killed. This small, but meaningful gesture, restored his faith in the active Marines and brought a watery shine to some tired eyes. I could not have been more proud to be a Marine as I was at that moment in the plant cafeteria. It equaled the pride I felt in the Marine Corps on the day of my retirement ceremony.

    Why write about Al? To me Al was the manifestation of an idea I had first heard 24 years ago. Once a Marine always a Marine. Al was the first former Marine I encountered in my new, and still brief retirement. He was the evidence to me that the United Sates Marine Corps is indeed unique in its ability, not only to produce the finest warriors in the world, but also in its ability to develop a bond among comrades that is unrivaled in the world today. That simply having been a Marine is enough to erase generational divides and provide a common ground for evolving and lasting friendships. Al was my connection to this realty. We had easily become friends in the short time we had known each other… it might not have been, without the common title, Marine.

    Al Poff will be remembered by many as a friend and co-worker. He will be remembered by few as a Marine. He will be remembered by me as the “Hollywood” Marine he claimed to be, and as an important figure in my transition from the bosom of the Marine Corps to the less special surroundings of the civilian world. He was my bridge to both.

    I thank the Marine Corps for the privilege of a 20 year career, and this special feeling, I know I could not have gotten anywhere else. Again, my special thanks to the Marine of MARFORPAC for the dogtags, and the joy they brought an old Marine. And, although I don’t understand when he took Al, I thank God for the privilege of knowing Al Poff, and the brief, and irreplaceable joy he brought to me.

    © Michael McBride 2005

    SFAG - Very Good Perspective Piece on MSM/Mil Relations

    SFAG connects on his latest piece...http://www.sfalphageek.blogspot.com/ ...very even handed look at MSM/Mil relationships. Some of the best takes...

    "In large part, it seems that the current generation of journalists see themselves as supra-nationalists. Having slipped the surly bonds of patriotism (which they would refer to as "nationalism") and having overcome classical liberal morality that would see the US as a force for good in the world, journalists feel themselves accountable only to "getting the story" and to what they would consider an internationalist point of view. Since military service is one of the ultimate expressions of patriotism, and the US military in particular views itself as moral force - fighting the good fight and obeying the laws of warfare even when their opponents do not - its little wonder that the two institutions fail to see eye to eye."

    On reporters never asking where the junior officers and unit SNCOs were in Abu Gharib...

    Either way, the immediate chain of command is the dog that didn't bark in the night. But nobody with enough voice in the mainstream media knew enough to raise it as far as I can tell. That kind of ignorance of the military means that reporters simply can't provide the context around their coverage of military operations, and that increases the problems the next issue causes:

    Check it out...

    New Math

    I apologize to all the Math majors out there on my equation in the comment section of my previous post...I should have realized I was solving for "j" not $1M...so here's another try...

    j= -$1m - 1d(agent) - x US(soldiers) - yi(Iraqi citizens)

    So, in plain English, one communist, Italian journalist is worth... $1M (or more), one dead Italian agent, potentially dozens of killed or injured GIs, and dozens of killed or injured Iraqi citizens. Geez the US is so barbaric that they don't pay ransoms more often...how else are the insurgents going to remain employed. There is no justification possible for this trade off. How self centered could you be not to see this. When subsequent journalists are captured there will be no boo-hooing form me. They get what they deserve.

    In fact, I expect to see a rash of captured journalists...why not, the insurgentnappers get money to keep going, and they get great press coverage when the hostage is released, and the US gets slammed in the press...it is the tri-fecta for them.

    In the end, the damage done by that $1M ransom can probably never be truly calculated, but the trade for one journalist will never balance the equation in my mind. Our troops are going to pay the interest on that money with their lives and their limbs. A very proud day for journalism indeed.

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    Sgrena ...let's work to get to the truth

    I need help on this one...anyone read German? Yo hablo solomente espanol. This is the only reference to ransom I have been able to find so far, so any help out there is greatly appreciated.
    http://www.tagesschau.de/aktuell/meldungen/0,1185,OID4125868_REF1,00.html

    My take here is CNN gave her a full ride on the following piece, and let her write her own story. The $1M is important, because if it turns out that a ransom was paid for her, and she fails to admit that in the story of her "dramatic release," it will have been ommitted to cover that fact that the insurgents have now received money to continue their fight with dollars paid for her realease. Oh, I guess anyone could have forgotten to mention that...particularly a communist reporter, from another courntry, who said to her captors ...

    "In the first days of my kidnapping I did not shed a tear. I was simply furious. I would say in the face of my captors: "But why do you kidnap me, I'm against the war."

    Check out the CNN story here... http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/03/06/il.manifesto/index.html

    So, I am sure that her comments show no bias towards the US , its policies, and in the end, with her direct accusations, our military. C'mon. And CNN puts this out as if it were the Rosetta stone.

    Let's say that the insurgents were in the market for a few spare parts, and the the sellers knew thay had the insurgents over a barrel, geez, the insurgents might actually have to pay up to, maybe $200 to make a bomb. Sgrena could be DIRECTLY responsible for upwards of 50,000 more IEDs. Any chance she will reflect on this at any point in the remainder of her life? I doubt it. Of the next 50,000 IEDs that go off...let's see how many casualties our forces take. Does she bear any cuplability?

    The translation above will tell, and in time, I think we'll find that the Italians were willing to trade $1M for the life of a journalist, the death of an agent, and the potential death of dozens (if not more) American soldiers. And we're apologizing? And people wonder why we don't think real highly of journalists...get the CLUE.

    Don't buy into it...push back...this one is way over the top. Mobilize. This topic needs to be swarmed.

    http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/002306.html Not sure what I am doing here, but trying to trackback to Mudville to get more help on this one.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Great Stuff from Special Forces Alpha Geek

    Real world, read it... http://sfalphageek.blogspot.com/ . Nicely done SFAG!

    Bullets vs. Speeding Journalists

    I am grinding my teeth on this one, so this will be short and to the point.

    I was livid today as I read the top headline for the Oregonian today (Patrick Quinn, AP)..."US bullets greet freed hostage." In the fifth paragraph, about a quarter inch from being sent to page A6, the article finally says..."The US military said the car was speeding as it approached a coalition checkpoint in western Baghdad at 8:55pm, It said soldiers shot into the engine block only after trying to warn the driver to stop by 'hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots'." It would seem to me, that a "fair" presentation of the story would be to carry part of this clarification in the first paragraph and mitigate the headline somewhat with something like..."Checkpoint incident under investigation, freed journalist injured." Oh, I am sorry, that doesn't sell enough newspapers.

    I must also report, in all fairness that the O did run a story today about a large weapons cache that a local NG unit uncovered with some great work...oh, I forgot to mention...below the fold with a header that was a yawner, and the font size was about 1/2 that of the one at the top of the page.

    Here's the issue...I want all reporter types to get this...I do not want ONE GI injured because they take any "extra" precautions because of, or for, journalists. I would not be sending one of my Marines home in a body bag...a Marine who might be your son, daughter, neighbor, brother, friend, etc...because they hesitated for one second, while a car rushed their checkpoint in the dark. My Marines would not take a car bomb in the lips because some journalist felt that established procedures do not apply to those who carry pencils.

    Now the press will dredge up every friendly fire incident of the war, they will dredge up the EA-6B incident of ten years ago...all for what? To add perspective to a story that they have already chosen to slant? I cannot make this more clear...the bottom half of today's O was designed to sell papers to moms and dads of soldiers...the top half was to slander them and their efforts. We need to quit buying their papers, and quit giving them access. They have chosen to side with a communist journalist that was putting our troops in danger....could it be any more clear?

    Carrying a pencil does not make you special or bulletproof. I am not listening to the belly-aching about this incident. Our guys used their guns because they HAD to...they had no idea who was in the car...no apologies necessary. And certainly, none coming from me.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Comments on Jay Rosen's Site

    It appears that Marky48 and I may be getting in to a running gun battle about a moral question posed by Jay Rosen...worth a peek. My comments are almost to the bottom. Enjoy.

    3/6/05...looks like marky48's and my last comments wer pulled from Jay's site...one of my best lines ever..."CNN would do anything to pull 15 chuckleheads away from their Faces of Death videos to grab a bit more in the ratings."

    CNN, and the MSM, will do ANYTHING to to gain readersip/viewership, let's start avoiding their sites...the troops in the end will pay for their ratings...I won't be a part of it.

    Marky...come by anytime and comment, I look forward to it. MM

    MSM Corrections vs. Blog Corrections

    The high and mighty MSM, their domain under attack by a plethora of citizen journalists, are increasingly whining about their shrinking base, and the unfairness of it all. Sadly, they still perceive that they are the sole messengers of the "pure" truth, whereas in reality, they have reduced themselves to simply storytellers, and in many cases novelists with access to the front page...Jason Blair, Dan Rather, et. al..

    But something caught my eye a couple of days ago while I was reviewing Hugh Hewitt's Blog and Michelle Malkin's blog...They each posted corrections. Both corrected some minor detail about an item that appeared in their respective blog. Interesting...the language was straightforward, the font size was the exact same as their usual postings, and the obvious intent was to make a needed correction.

    Now compare that to your usual MSM retraction which is: 1. Non-existent. 2. Buried on page C23. 3. Defensively unapologetic. 4. In a font so small, an electron microscope would have a tough time discriminating between letters.

    I am amazed that the MSM still believes they are the torch bearers when their best efforts fall far short of what they demand from all other institutions. Step One for getting back in the game...learn how to admit and correct your many mistakes!

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Military Awards; Two Complaints

    I am struck by the fact that, at least locally, I have not seen hardly any military awards ceremonies covered in either the papers or on national/local TV. I see two potential issues here…I feel obliged to comment on both.

    First, I am fearful that the military has not moved far from its practices of the 80’s and 90’s in the way awards were meted out.

    There were a few hanging chads from the Vietnam War that impacted our awards policies for the two decades hence. First, there are many Vietnam vets that are unable to recount the specifics for which they received their combat awards. In essence, they were uncertain of the value of their awards, because they were given awards as a matter of policy, vice being given awards for specific actions that were captured by a third party and independently submitted through the chain. This is not meant to besmirch the awards of Vietnam Vets, but to relate the feelings of vets that I have heard many times... that without the connective tissue of a specific act that even the recipient views as modestly heroic, the award, while higly valued in the culture, may not be highly valued by the recipient. In other words, a bad awards program diminishes the value of the awards. This had the effect of downplaying the value of awards in the years following Vietnam, de-emphasizing them almost into extinction. I recall very few awards ceremonies from 1978-1984.

    The second post-Vietnam effect is one of direct comparison. By all accounts, the combat tours of duty in Vietnam were extremely dangerous and challengingly arduous. The follow-on combat operations, such a Grenada and Panama, were of such short duration, that the thought of giving out combat awards for operations that lasted less than a week, seemed a bit too much for most commanders, all of whom were Vietnam era vets. Hence, in the Marine Corps anyway, combat awards for those actions are viewed as rare, and highly won.

    In combination, these factors created a bit of a backlash. A kind of diametric attitude that viewed awards as both minimally worthwhile, but conversely required some Vietnam comparison litmus test to merit awarding. By my observation this lasted until about 1985, as all types of awards were begrudgingly given out, at an impressively stingy rate. Increasingly, more and more non-combat, peacetime medals were given out, until a credible equilibrium seemed to be achieved…balancing the need for a viable awards program while ensuring that awards retained their value.

    Quietly, however there evolved a tiering within the awards system that appeared to schedule out awards according to rank. In a lot of cases this makes sense. Legions of Merit are not designed to be given Lance Corporals just out of “A” School, but I observed many cases where Navy Commendation Medals were downgraded to Navy Achievement Medals simply because the intended recipients were Sergeants instead of Staff NCO’s. There were stratifications within the officer ranks as well. The rank-based approach to medal awarding slowly began to become accepted practice that saw very few exceptions.

    Where all this concerns me today, is in the issuance of combat awards during the extent of OIF and OIF II. I don’t worry about issuing too many combat awards, I worry that the appropriate combat awards are not being awarded to the troops who are the preponderance of the forces engaged with the enemy. Since I am not seeing any in the paper, nor on the news, I worry we may be continuing to be too stingy with awards and/or passing them through some artificial litmus tests before they are awarded, having the overall effect of awarding fewer deserved awards.

    I hope this is not the case…which brings me to the second point about the MSM…start treating our combat troops with the respect they deserve.

    The MSM focus on prison scandals, keeping a running body count on our front pages, deriding the fighting of the insurgency, has the effect of diminishing the exhausting efforts of our troops in the field. Additionally, the MSM is all too eager to show our veterans who are now in re-hab as amputees, and to publish the funeral processions of our veterans killed in action. Don’t be fooled, these stories are being published as attacks on the President, SOD and their policies, not in an effort to honor our troops. If there were such an effort to honor our individual soldiers they would also be carrying stories on the heroic actions of our soldiers and the awards ceremonies that are certainly taking place. How many of those have been aired/published…none that I have seen locally.

    So, my call,…to the military…make sure you’re giving out combat awards as they are earned. Skip the rank tests. Skip the quotas. Lighten up on the Bronze Stars and Silver Stars to staff officers. And, get the awards ceremonies honoring our troops into the papers, onto the web, and onto the nightly news.

    To veterans…don’t let the MSM use you and your families as you go through your difficult re-habs. They are not doing it to honor you, they are doing it to sell newspapers and air time. Don’t let them drag you and your honor down to their level…insist on a trade…your story for additional, positive coverage of our troops and their heroic efforts in the field.

    To the MSM…wise up…good news does sell. Compelling stories of troops in combat sells print. Get the clue. Quit using our vets and their horrific injuries to sell your tripe. Balance your coverage or get out of the business.

    To those who suspect I am writing this over bitterness about my own personal decorations, or lack thereof…fear not, I am very colorful in my dress uniforms, including a nice smattering of individual meritorious awards, individual combat awards, and a few left over ribbons for above the right pocket on my dress blues…DD214 available upon request.

    Let’s do the young troops justice…give them the medals they earn, give them the coverage the deserve…simple message.

    Blog Philosophy 101

    If a piece is posted on a blog and nobody reads it…is it really published? I admit I have become increasingly frustrated by the low number of hits on my site, so I took a few days off to feel sorry for myself and contemplate my blogging future. I love the medium, and the latitude to publish on subjects that I want to write about, but if I am not gaining ground with readers, I have to question the value of my time spent at the keyboard. Which I did, and I am still struggling with the question as to whether or not there is a need for my blog, and the types of things I enjoy writing about.

    I still don’t have that answer, but I want to put out a piece on military awards and they scant press coverage they garner.
    Coming soon.

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