29 December 2006
Dark, edgy, realistic, sobering, humanly humorous. No this is not a description of a visit by your dysfunctional cousin, it is a short set of thoughts on the new movie Children of Men Children of Men. The film is complex and yet eerily easy to follow. It also includes an “alternate reality” site The Human Project which complements the realism of the movie. Alternate Reality on the web is another topic which is worthy of mentioning, but later.
Citizen Une and I viewed this film last night. The movie is set in a near future Great Britain in which it remains as the only viable nation state. The world has essentially collapsed with the impact of numerous wars, illnesses and most importantly, a mysterious global infertility among the planet’s women.
There are no true bad guys, save the possible self serving nature of humans. The “resistance fighters” are ruthless, the government is uncaring and the general population is numbed by the continuing onslaught of all they hold stable and secure.
The movie is loaded with great action, solid acting (Clive Owen and Michael Caine are brilliant) and some very gritty urban combat scenes. All of the elements are really reflection (in my opinion) of present fears and events. There are even several not so subtle references to Iraq and some of the errors of the United States.
At the heart of the movie is the rising, legitimate concern over global fertility and population. In sharp contrast to the Malthusian notion, (he was somewhat of a jerk) the world population growth is projected to slow dramatically in the coming half century. The world grew from 2.5 bn persons in 1950 to over 6 bn in 2005. The number is projected to be 9 bn by 2050, certis paribus (all things constant – ooooh, Latin!). In some areas of the world, national levels are expected to decline. Many developed nations in Europe are expected to decrease in population. It is worth reading the executive summary as the demographic makeup of the globe’s population is critical to its future.
Why has fertility declined? There are a number of reasons posted, from environmental to social. Understanding these reasons will be essential for governments and societies to act in their behalf.
I am not a Cassandrist, I do believe that our globe is subject to very strong, macro forces which shape the direction of human and planetary society. Some are out of our control (eventual aging and deterioration of the Sun, for example) many are within our power to affect (almost everything else). I would like to see more discussion on legitimate science and its impact on our globe. This includes the biological, environmental and social as well as the physical.
Nonetheless, see the movie. It’s gripping and thought provoking. The violence is graphic and one feels a bit relieved to emerge back into a world which is still (more or less) sane.
25 December 2006
I like to think that her spirit is romping in the realm of perpetually falling slices of beef and panicky small animals.
In the meantime, a posting of some underway time on the USS CARNEY DDG 64 during UNITAS 2006. We were taking on fuel from the Chilean oiler ARAUCANO. On the starboard side of the ARAUCANO was the USCG MOHAWK.
Merry Christmas to all!
23 December 2006
One must find a production of the Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant . The performance I and Citizen Une saw at Dad's Garage in Atlanta last night was nothing short of riotous.
The entire show takes place as a dead serious children's pageant for Scientology. Years ago my uncle was an editor for the Clearwater Sun. Now Clearwater Florida is gorund zero for the nut cases group championed by Kirstie Allie, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The show has some great lines and truly ridiculous songs.
As a dyed in the wool "unbeliever" I found it refreshing and sobering. In preparing for the show we reviewed some of the basic tenets of Scientology. It's a scary group, but here in the open USA, we can tolerate these folks and many, many others.
See it if you can.
18 December 2006
11 December 2006
The above video is a great view of a carrier landing while flying the S-3. The S-3 is a twin engine, jet aircraft which performs a variety of critical roles for the carrier air wing. It is an EW (electronics warfare) platform, ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare), aerial tanker and C2 (command and control) plane.
It earned the moniker from the distinctive sound in the cockpit.
UPDATE - Oh my spelling!
07 December 2006
We have forgotten some of our greatest achievements as a species.
No, not the invention of the piano necktie - rather the landing of humans on the nearest planet to our own, the moon.
NASA, which actually stands for Not Another Shuttle Accident, has declared they intend to return to the moon by 2020 and set up permanent residence by 2024. This is in keeping with a pledge made by President G W Bush to get back to space. Stephen Hawking has stated that our only hope for survival relies on our ability to leave our earthly bounds and colonize the planets.
Let us set aside the erroneous predictions of the Malthusian followers. Rampant overpopulation and shortages have not consumed the earth. We have made great strides in understanding our impact on the planet. Nations, like India, have worked miracles in providing for their peoples (try googling the "green revolution"). Although the threat of worldwide warfare or plague still looms, that threat is receding.
So what do we do for an encore? The last vestiges of dark age mentality (and by this I mean radical Islam) will eventually pass away. Education and a desire for a better life from the underclass will triumph where US military might has stalled.
Ad astra per aspera.
To the stars from the mud.
NASA has uncovered strong evidence of liquid water on Mars. The uniqueness of planets is no longer restricted to our solar system and now the likelihood for life on other worlds has risen dramatically. The amount of energy and technology required to economically colonize beyond our earth will require a global effort. This effort will naturally result in the furtherance of complementary technologies, alternative energy, better food production, medicine and other spin-offs much as the moon effort yielded.
Private enterprise must be engaged as well. The market is always the best force for change, remember Columbus' voyages were essentially entrepreneurial ventures.
Besides, I always wanted to wear one of those cool silver jumpsuits.
06 December 2006
You can hear the podcast here National Public Radio (NPR).
Kramer’s Conundrum What the Michael Richards Event Really Means
opinion editorial by Michael Shermer
After a paroxysm of racial viciousness at the Laugh Factory Friday night, November 17, 2006, Michael Richards, the 57-year old comedian who played Kramer on Seinfeld, explained to David Letterman and his Late Night audience the following Monday, after a barrage of negative publicity: “I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”
Michael’s shattered demeanor and heartfelt repentance leaves us with what I shall call Kramer’s Conundrum: how can someone who spews racial epithets genuinely believe he is not a racist? The answer is to be found in the difference between our
conscious and unconscious attitudes, and our public and private thoughts. Consciously and publicly, Michael Richards is probably not a racist. Unconsciously and privately, however, he is. So am I. So are you.
Consciously and publicly, most of us are colorblind. And most of us, most of the time, under most conditions, believe and act on that cultural requisite. You’d have to be insane to publicly utter racist remarks in today’s society … or temporarily insane, which both science and the law recognize as being sometimes triggered by anger. And alcohol — recall Mel Gibson’s drunken eruption about Jews, or the college Frat boys slurring alcohol-induced insanities about blacks and slavery in Sacha Baron Cohen’s film Borat.
The insidiousness of racism is due to the fact that it arises out of the deep recesses of our unconscious. We may be utterly unaware of it, yet it lurks there ready to erupt under certain circumstances. How can we know this? Even without anger and alcohol, Harvard scientists have found a method in an instrument called the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which asks subjects to pair words and concepts. The more closely associated the words and concepts are, the quicker the response to them will be in the key-pressing sorting task (try it yourself at IAT).
The race test firsts asks you to sort black and white faces into one of two categories: European American and African American. Easy. Next you are asked to sort a list of words (Joy, Terrible, Love, Agony, Peace, Horrible, Wonderful, Nasty, Pleasure, Evil, Glorious, Awful, Laughter, Failure, Happy, Hurt) into one of two categories: Good and Bad. No problem. The next task is a little more complicated. The words and black and white faces appear on the screen one at a time, and you sort them into one of these categories: African American/Good or European American/Bad. Again you match the words with the concepts of good or bad, and faces with national origin. So the word “joy” would go into the first category and a white face would go into the second category. This sorting goes noticeably slower, but you might expect that since the combined categories are more cognitively complex.
Unfortunately, the final sorting task puts the lie to that rationalization: This time you sort the words and faces into the categories European American/Good or African American/Bad. Tellingly (and distressingly) this sort goes much faster than the previous sort. I was much quicker to associate words like “joy,” “love,” and “pleasure” with European American/Good than I did with African American/Good.
I consider myself about as socially liberal as you can get (I’m a libertarian), and yet on a scale that includes “slight,” “moderate,” and “strong,” the program concluded: “Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American.”
What? “The interpretation is described as ‘automatic preference for European American’ if you responded faster when European American faces and Good
words were classified with the same key than when African American faces and
Good words were classified with the same key.” But I’m not a racist. How can
this be? It turns out that this subconscious association of good with European
Americans is true for everyone, even African Americans, no matter how color
blind we all claim to be. Such is the power of culture.
We are by nature sorters. Evolutionists theorize that we evolved in small bands of
hunter-gatherers where there was a selection for within-group amity and
between-group enmity. With our fellow in-group members, we are cooperative and
altruistic. Unfortunately, the down side to this pro-social bonding is that we
are also quite tribal and xenophobic to out-group members. This natural
tendency to sort people into Within-Group/Good and Between-Group/Bad is shaped
by culture, such that all Americans, including those whose ancestry is African,
implicitly inculcate the cultural association, which includes additional prejudices.
The IAT, in fact, also demonstrates that we prefer young to old, thin to fat, straight to gay, and such associations as family-females and career-males, liberal arts-females and science-males. Such associations bubble just below the surface, inhibited by cultural restraints but susceptible to eruption under extreme inebriation or duress.
Michael Richards’ sin was his deed; his thoughts are the sin of all humanity. Only when all people are considered to be members of one global in-group (in principle, if not in practice) can we begin to attenuate these out-group associations. But it won’t
be easy. Vigilance is the watchword of both freedom and dignity. We should
accept Mr. Richards’ apology for losing his temper and acting out those hateful
thoughts. Perhaps we also ought to thank him for having the courage to confess
in public what far too many of us still harbor in private, often in the privacy
of our unconscious minds. As the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote:
Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone but only his
friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his
friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things
which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number
of such things stored away in his mind.
29 November 2006
Above are the before and after photos...
22 November 2006
17 November 2006
14 November 2006
08 November 2006
Well maybe svelte...
The democratic process triumphs!
Deux wrong in bullheaded beliefs!
Pelosi's reaction still impossible to discern from facial expression!
Wow! What a great day. I was actually able to have a civil conversation with Citizen Une about politics without fear of serious physical harm! Kudos to the folks who voted and voted ferociously! And shame on those who did not! This is exactly the sort of election which reminds us of the power of our nation.
The GOP did itself in during this season. How they will recover for 2008 is anyone's guess. But suffice to say, the world will look pretty different then. The economy, if strong and Iraq and Afghanistan if progressing will even the playing field. If either are out of balance, get ready for a big turnover!
This site has a great round up of all the contested seats.
My only caution to the victorious democrats, get to work! The American people will be just as quick to punish you for not acting in our nation's best interests as they did the republicans.
07 November 2006
03 November 2006
31 October 2006
John Kerry has walked into a political minefield by associating uneducated, uninformed folks with members of the US Military.
Pretty sad. I don't know about Major John's academic credentials, but I've got a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA, along with graduate work in environmental engineering, two professional engineering licenses and a Six Sigma Black Belt.
Guess I'm too dumb to know any better. What I have found of interest in recent DoD surveys is that there is a higher percentage of individuals with graduate degrees among the US Army's NCO corps than any single enlisted segment. Additionally, US Navy requirements for the advancement to E7 will now require a bachelor's degree and all officers must have some language proficiency.
Now if I was only smart enough to figure out what John meant by his comments...
UPDATE - The prevailing opinion is that Kerry let his own context and sarcasm get the best of him. Perhaps this is even more damning as it reveals to me his own contempt for the military. I suspect he is still holding on to old ideas from his time in service during Vietnam and shortly afterwards.
By the way, acknolwedgement to Major John over at Miserable Donuts - his JD trumps my MBA!
Dang Army guys...
At least we still have the best chow.
27 October 2006
The bottom line is that the congressional races are heavily skewed towards the incumbent. Should a majority of voters rise up in anger (as they did with Joe Liebermann and Cynthia McKinney) they can affect the outcome of the election. However, in both those cases the overturned candidate was outed by their own party in a primary!
My prediction, no major changes in majority.
And if the majority should change - no major changes in policy.
This is not to be feared or reviled, we must adapt out policies in the face of the evolving situation. There is much to correct. And much to reinforce.
26 October 2006
Many of these articles are about the conflict we find ourselves engaged in at this moment. I find much to agree and disagree with in almost everything I read. As Citizen Une says, I am a hybrid - although she claims firm entrenchment in the Democratic camp - I find her views ranging to the libertarian on many issues. She has a keen intellect and a real clear notion of justice. She is also a seeker, unafraid to quest into uncharted territories.
25 October 2006
Miserable Donuts: More Evidence of Low Morale and Uncaring Soldiers
I think the best example of American help comes from being able to rapidly identify needs, take action and make a difference. The work done by CA (Civil Affairs) units needs more support, more press and more encouragement from the body politic and we citizens. There is only the highest good in the efforts of these men and women.
By the way, check out the recent issue of Foreign Affairs for an indepth article by Colin Kahl on our conduct in the most recent conflicts is actually going.
23 October 2006
18 October 2006
I like computer games.
I like them a lot.
In fact, I grew to like one game so much it may have damaged my life. I am talking about World of Warcraft. It is an immersive, exciting and engaging environment which will suck time out of your life like a turbo-charged Hoover.
It was only recently that I realized how hurtful the game had been to me. In fairness, I was not a "dedicated" player, having only played on and off throughout a week. But given my other commitments, which were legion, it was time ill spent.
Why am I telling you this? It was this post at Soul Kerfuffle which made me stop dead in my tracks today and say.
"Crap, that could have been me."
In fairness, I broke off this heinous relationship about a month ago, but the residue lingers. I originally signed up in April of 2005. I had one character who made it to level 43, pretty low considering most get to level 60 in less than a year. But this is beside the point.
The game provided escape. It allowed me to escape from a lot of unpleasantness. It made me feel like I was accomplishing something, when in actuality I was not. I did write some good side stories, that at least felt good, but overall the time was idled away. Almost as bad as watching TV, but worse because the interactions forsook the flesh and blood of those near and dear to one.
So here I blog, that may be worse. But it seems manageable (I can quit anytime!). At least Citizen Une never said "I think you may have an addiction problem with blogging" as she did with WoW. I dismissed her comment at the time, but now I think she was right.
WoW is a great game. It is a triumph of computing and creative genius. It may form the basis for a broader virtual world where people can work out real problems. But it was too seductive for me. I never spent a whole day playing, but I know folks who did. They also posted on the forums, maintained fan sites, wrote stories and generated art.
Creative to be sure, but not of this world.
Ironically, in the cancellation process, Blizzard asks why.
One of their choices is addiction.
I pulled down the selection and submitted my confession.
Boy it's bright out here.
17 October 2006
11 October 2006
09 October 2006
Well, Kim Jong Il has crossed the Rubicon. North Korea has detonated a nuclear device. Even now, somewhere deep in the E-ring of the Pentagon a list of contingency plans are being reviewed and forwarded to the NCA (National Command Authority). It would be irresponsible for me to speculate on the contents of these plans, I certainly have no first hand knowledge of them. However, the implications of our actions will be felt around the world.
In one sense the Hermit Kingdom has hung up a “Nukes for Sale” sign to anyone willing to pony up sufficient cash for its collapsing economy. Considering the value of that economy is approximately $23.5bn, a $100mn price tag represents a pure cash infusion of almost 0.5%.
The key questions we should be asking ourselves is can we get the rest of the world to pay attention to this dangerous condition? Recall that the Korean Conflict has never been reconciled with a peace treaty. In essence, the war continues under an ongoing truce. The security of the world demands that North Korea step away from the edge and place their materials under international controls.
Even with a bucket of nuclear weapons, North Korea could never hope to win a conflict with the EFW. After an initial delivery of destruction their military infrastructure would be obliterated by a combined conventional and nuclear fusillade. South Korean forces would likely occupy the remnants of the North and the economic impact to the region would be staggering. Japan would emerge as an even stronger player and the United States would be forced to withdraw from the area for a time.
No, the greater concern is the release of one or two weapons to the individuals who have sworn themselves to our destruction. The Islamo-Fascist Alliance, sufficiently well funded and capable, could deliver blistering destruction to Los Angeles, Sydney, or any other city sufficiently close to a port.
This situation is not the fault of republicans or democrats, the right or the left. It is the long lingering result of a world emerging from conflict and change over the past several centuries. In one sense, I am optimistic. If we can rationally resolve these challenges (conflict between IFA and the EFW, North Korea, the globalization of our economy, etc.) then there is a real chance for an exciting new era in social evolution.
If not, then we are poised to enter a modern dark age in which modern states isolate themselves from the rogue entities, who are allowed to wither and die or are eliminated in brutal conflicts.
My dad was visiting me this past week, providing cover for Citizen Une and myself to take a much needed break. He served in the 3rd ID, 139th Field Artillery as a battery commander during the Korean War. We shared a brief moment of irony as we looked at the headline, sidebar column of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
I know Navy ships are even now being tasked to that part of the world.
I embraced him as he left, each of us wondering what would be required in the days and months ahead.
02 October 2006
27 September 2006
My grandfather served in WWI and WWII. My dad served in WWIII and now I am serving in WWIV. For those who doubt the accuracy of my cataloging the global conflicts, do a few searches on WWIV. Above is one of the few pictures of Grandad from WWII. In this shot, he is the one on the right, he was an Army Air Corps officer, LTC, escorting the Crown Prince of Italy back to Rome after the fall of Italy. I think the general is Wainwright, any help? Umberto has signed the print as 30-ix-1944 (Sep 30, 1944).
Grandad was a soldier of fortune. I could spend a lot of time writing about him, but that is for another time. He was the son of a minister and the first in our patriarchal line to serve. The Army discharged him in 1948 and told him he had six months to live die to a heart ailment. He died in 1983.
I stood on the deck of the USS PEGASUS (PHM-1) in my midshipman's uniform as we consigned his ashes to the waters around Key West, which he so loved.
I miss you Grandad.
25 September 2006
20 September 2006
Holy jumpin’ catfish! WHO is taking real steps to alleviate some serious misery in the developing world! Thomas Bray reveals that the World Health Organization is going to permit DDT as a measure to control malaria.
This is good news. Every year, millions (that’s ten to the sixth power) of people die from the effects of malaria. It wreaks havoc among the weakest and most destitute of our brothers and sisters. It affects the young and old most heavily.
I wrote about my loose connection to this debate in December of last year. DDT
Is a chemical which was demonized and used by radical, environmental extremists to promote their agenda.
Thank heavens we can see some scientific principals applied to a devastating human crisis.
Now if I can just get Al Gore to actually review the global warming literature…
18 September 2006
The Pope, not on my favorite people list (regardless of who is sitting under the miter), makes some intellectual comments about a 14th century exchange between a Christian leader and an Islamic leader. A dialogue which seemed civil enough at the time. As soon as the words leave his mouth, the Islamic "street" erupts into chants of "the Pope must die" and other such nonsense.
Is it my imagination or has all of Islam been taking crazy pills for the past millennia and a half? Since their inception in the seventh century, a once rising Mideast culture has steadily fallen further and further behind. A lot of this is directly due to the restrictive (read oppressive) nature of the dominant religion. If you have the good fortune to tour any of the great national museums of that region of the world, you will note a marked change after the integration of Islam in that region. Styles of dress became more subdued, trade reduced and in general nations once on the upward path atrophied and began to fail.
Clearly, not all of this resulted from some sort of religious funk, climate and other global factors arose to stymie the growth of countries like Persia (Iran). However, in this modern age the fact that one would greet the words of the Pontiff with violence (slaying an Italian nun - for Chrissakes!), is only to further demonstrate just how little understanding the West has for Islam.
Why aren't Muslim folks in the United States flying into apocalyptic rages? They are better off, better integrated and hopefully have enough sense to note when reason leaves the room and zealotry arrives, clothed in fire and blood.
I am not a religious man, unless you count science as my religion. And yet I have enough Biblical knowledge to recall that the New Testament advocates that one should turn the other cheek in the face of criticism or assault. I also recall from the Church of the Playground that "sticks and stones may break my bones but word will never hurt me", is there an equivalent teaching in the Holy Koran? As much as I would like to believe that Islam is at its heart a religion of peace and tolerance, actions by its adherents would indicate otherwise.
12 September 2006
Isaac Asimov, one of my favorite scientists and science fiction writers, craft the elegant three laws of robotics.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Later, a fourth law was added.
0. A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
This was known as the zeroth law. A lot of Asimov's work is poised around the idea of free will and the nature of action and inaction. As my beloved, Citizen Une, is even now embarking on her own journey of deeper discovery. I find myself pondering more encompassing issues.
One of these issues is moral relativism. Much of modern Western thought revolves around a non-judgemental philosophical view. I will not begin to argure the right or wrong of this, I am ill equipped. But I will posit, can we conceive of a set of simple laws by which humanity can be guided?
Are there a Three, four, five laws of humanity?
11 September 2006
We can not forget.
More importantly, we must understand.
Most of all, we must act.
Five years ago today I was working in Suffolk, Virginia when we received word that an aircraft had struck the WTC. We turned on a TV and I sent out one of my mechanics to buy another TV at WalMart.
The images were at first confusing, what kind of plane? Then the second tower was hit. I knew then that this was another battle in our ongoing war with the Islamo-Fascist Alliance (IFA).
I checked in with my unit. There was no immediate deployment order, yet. Later, most of my personnel were to be divided up and allocated around the world to protect military installations. This proved to be a hollow response as the targets selected by our enemies were unlikely to be hardened, military facilities. They were more likely to be nightclubs, train stations and aircraft. Symbols of commerce, areas of free association and very vulnerable.
Some would claim that this is not really a war, and yet there is significant and mounting evidence that it most certainly is. Although we do not find ourselves pitched directly against nation states, our opponents are as committed to the destruction or subjugation of our society as any enemy in history.
The challenge today is how do we respond? We are not a society which will permit wholesale and indiscriminate retaliation. We value the lives of the innocent above all else.
We also value the freedom and open nature of the Enlightened Free World (EFW). And yet that freedom and openness is used against us at every turn. Sometimes by nation states, sometimes by the transnational organizations who act against us and sometimes by individual actors who simply seek to vent their hate-filled philosophy against a society they despise.
One thing is certain, the citizens of the EFW can not afford to relax their posture against such an insidious threat. Our action must be temepred with justice, compassion and a deadly serious dedication to preserving our freedoms.
The war rages on, the time of its end remains in the future. However, we are the ones who must ensure the certainty of its outcome.
08 September 2006
I am, at heart, a nerd. I love science, math and nearly all thing technologic. I have devoured pages of SciFi, fantasy and even played Dungeons and Dragons. I followed the space program with wide eyed wonder, writing to astronauts (idolizing my hero Alan B. Sheperd– a Naval Officer) and suggesting all sorts of ideas to NASA.
This, I think, is a good thing. The world needs technology badly. It actually needs creative thinkers who can apply new ideas to old problems. I like to think of myself as part of that cadre of engineers, scientists and futurists who work to make things better. I am a doer, as Citizen Une says (accurately) “you are a human being, not a human doing”. But more on that in another, more reflective, post.
What I want to talk about is Star Wars.
Actually, the cult of Star Wars and all that it embodies. Unlike Star Trek, Star Wars invokes a mystical period of clear struggles between good and evil. While Star Trek emphasizes humanities triumph over the adversities of ignorance and the challenges beyond (well, all except Voyager).
Within that cult are a host of "fan films" . These range form the earliest Hardware Wars to one of the most sophisticated and recent (which may actually be better than some of the movies). A project originally called TROOPS II, from the original stormtrooper parody, TROOPS, this film is called I.M.P.S.. It is a documentary about Imperial Stromtroopers and their life aboard their starship. It is well crafted, scripted with some cynical sophistication and a labor of love for the creators.
The breadth of creativity of these producers and directors is stunning. I have no idea what Lucas and company think of all this, but do yourself a favor, download the teaser – if you like it download Chapter One.
The empire will never be the same again.
03 September 2006
29 August 2006
Friends, I wanted to post the experience of a member of our armed services who was recently recalled to Iraq. His experience personifies the "purple" nature of operations. For the uninitiated, this means the use of joint (Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines/Coast Guard/SOF) units in contingencies. What is important to note is the tremendous work exercised to prepare a Navy guy for what was, traditionally, an Army job.
By the way, Jimmy is normally a pretty well compensated civilian engineer. Time and again I read about the "economic" gap of our nations best off not serving. Rest assured, this is pure bunk. Almost all the senior officers (certainly the medical and legal recalls) come from very successful civilian roles, and suffer significantly upon deployment. Although I don't expect to run into Ned Lamont (or his kids - their choice, by the way), I have met more than a few well off folks taking significant personal
Apologies, there are a LOT of TLA (three letter acronyms) in the text. My apologies, I will happily explain to the curious, however, there are a number of very good military acronym sites.
One of our members asked me to share the recall experience with you - this is probably a good idea since each of you is likely to have a similar experience in the future.
I was recalled on the 10th of January of this year. I received the news on New Years Eve. From what I can tell, I was recalled due to a combination of my MAS code of "VOL" and dropping into IAP status for a few weeks while my unit transitioned from SUBPAC to SUBLANT in late 2005.
I was mobilized through Millington, TN (the closest mob site to my Fort Worth reserve center). I went to Millington for a few days and then was sent to Fort Jackson, SC. My initial orders indicated that I was to go to Afghanistan as a Navy Individual Augmentee (IA), although I ended up in Iraq.
I was in the first Navy IA class at Jackson which was called the Navy Combat Course. We learned the rudiments of being ground-pounding soldiers from OUTSTANDING Army Reserve drill instructors who normally run the Army's Common Task Training (CTT) program for Army IRR soldiers. This is basically an infantry refresher course. It focused on small arms, crew served weapons, convoy procedures, land navigation, CBR training, 1st Aid, communications, small unit movement, and related skills. Since we were the first course, there was a steep learning curve for the Army and the Navy. The instruction was very thorough. Most of my classmates deployed to the CENTCOM AOR with most going to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Just before I was to deploy, the Army realized that it had really intended to make me a Civil Affairs officer. So I was sent to Fort Bragg for three more months with the Army's Special Operations Command. I am administratively assigned to the Navy's new Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). NECC is tasked with establishing a Maritime CA capability in the near future. The Navy folks that took this course and deployed with me comprise the
pool of folks for this contingency. As such, we anticipate future recall as Navy CA bubbas.
At Bragg, I attended a 4-week Civil Affairs course run by the Special Operations command and had additional combat training that duplicated much of the Fort Jackson experience. The Fort Bragg training included additional focus on preparing for the Iraq theater with a lot of time spent on tactical vehicle operations (HUMVEEs and their ilk), a Combat Life Saver (CLS) course, and other things required by the Special Operations command. At completion of this training I was assigned the Army's 38A MOS (Civil Affairs Officer) and the Navy's CA NOBC.
At Bragg, I was assigned to the US Army's 354th Civil Affairs Brigade along with a number of other Navy Officers and enlisted. This unit is the HQ unit for the various CA Battalions and Companies currently deployed here. In the process, we were issued a lot of stuff. I was issued DCU uniforms (some other IAs wear the Army's ACU uniform). They pretty much gave us everything you could imagine - 4 full seabags of stuff. You name it and they gave it to us. The basic combat kit consists of a Advanced Combat Helmet, a set of Individual Body Armor (IBA) that included the vest, shoulder protection, and ceramic armor plate inserts, a set of load bearing gear, an M-4 carbine, an M-9 pistol, basic combat load, camel back, CLS aid bag, combat knife, ballistic goggles, combat gloves, and knee/elbow pads. My walking around town kit weighs 81 pounds. We deployed in late April and relieved the 322nd CA Brigade. This was a historic event as the first US CA unit comprised of Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen to deploy in combat.
I lead the brigade's Humanitarian Assistance (HA) team whose job is to coordinate HA for the Iraqi theater. As such, we coordinate the distribution of medical supplies, clothing, food, school supplies, toys, sporting goods, and equipment to the maneuver units in the field. We receive these items from government donations, excess US military property, and donations from various charity groups. This is a very rewarding job.
My other assignment is to a team of folks that perform assessments of various Iraqi industrial facilities. I lead the technical assessment of the facilities. Our goal is to determine what needs to happen to get the facility back into full production. This is a great opportunity for an ED with a manufacturing background.
So what do you need to do to get ready? Good question - PT, PT, and PT some more. It is hot as blazes here and the armor is a burden to wear all day in the desert heat. I cannot emphasize how important it is to be in good physical condition in the event you are recalled. In my case, I had the better part of 4 months to get used to the kit, but most people will spend only a few weeks in the states before you arrive here. You also need to get your affairs in order. Given my short notice, I had a couple of days at work and then the rest was focused on packing and hugging good-bye. You do not want to spend that time trying to get a will, POA, passport, financial arrangements, in place. Do it now. Pack your seabag so that you can go when called. If you have BDUs or DCUs plan to bring them with you.
You will send all your other uniforms back home before you deploy. Have that long talk with your loved ones about the sacrifice each of you may face before you ever get the call. Plan to be deployed to a bad place and if it happens you will be ready. Did I mention PT?
It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. When you go to war you learn a lot about yourself and why you are here in this world. The depth of need in this place is stunning. Have no doubts that we are fighting the good fight in Iraq. The enemy practices evil not seen since WWII. I obviously miss my family and friends, but the sacrifice is worth it when you look into the eyes of children that have had no hope all their lives. We are working hard to get the schools open, the lights on, and destroy the tyranny that reigned unabated in this country. It is a very difficult job. Each step forward is bought with the nations treasure of our soldiers' lives and our country's riches. To whom much is given much is expected. Thank you for your service and supporting our nation.
If you have any questions, feel free to write me.
CDR Jimmy Cox, USN / 354th Civil Affairs Brigade / APO AE 09342
24 August 2006
I have had too much overpriced red wine. Although, the Melka vineyard produces Mettise in the Napa valley, a rather fine Cabernet blend, be sure to get the 2001 vintage.
Can we, as a race (human that is) determine a moral pinnacle on the planet? There is much discussion over moral relativism of late and it is significant to the events which plague us now.
Can someone truly claim the high ground in this conflict of ideals? I would be interested to hear from the seven (okay, maybe six - if I discount Marock) readers of this blog if such a thing can exist.
I am interested because I think that may form the foundation for a discussion of topics of interest to all of us. Of note, Sonic has conceded that Iraq was an error, a position which I disagree with vehemently.
Citizen Une posits that there can be no absolutes. I am troubled by this stance. So to you I pose the question, does it exist? Or is there a point of debarkation from debate and agreement on what is and is not right.
By the way, I must ask that you set aside faith. For it is subjective and not impervious to logic.
UPDATE - Never drink and blog.
22 August 2006
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the trolling, e-mail spider hunters latched onto my posted e-mail and began dumping the latest Netherlands Lotto winners notification and Cote d' Ivoire pleas for hiding untold millions in suspisciously obtained funds. But the time has indeed arrived. I have received a number of good responses. The overall gist will be posted in the coming weeks, preceded by my own views of DADT.
I am disappointed that the responses to my mini-poll on Military.com were not as sucessful. There are several good forums there which I would direct you to view and/or participate in to obtain a flavor for military views. A word of caution, the people on the forum may or may not be actual military members.
The Human Rights Campaign has a good synopsis of some of the more seminal events in the history of the policy. However, some of their reporting is from the SLDN, a group whose sole purpose is to overturn DADTDPDH (the full acronym of the policy). Oddly, this public action by SLDN is the right forum, although their efforts seem to be aimed at the DoD and not Congress, which is the ultimate arbiter of policy.
For a detailed history of the whole debate, originally started by President Jimmy Carter's outright ban on homosexuals in military service, see the Aaron Belkin's Army War College's article in their publication Parameters.
Comparisons of the US to other nations militaries must be made against those which have similar major commonalities. The comparitive forces must be all volunteer, must be selected based upon a meritocracy (best candidates) and must be of a high state of proficiency.
This in itself is a unique status. But, I note, it seems to align well with members of the EFW (Elightened Free World).
16 August 2006
Alright, it begins. I am going to be reaching out to my military colleagues to do a little unscientific survey of the present state of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and its effect on the military as well as glean any perceptions from folks regarding changes to opinions on homosexuals in the military.
I have added a mail link and a spoof account to collect the input. For your persual, the following includes the range of questions;
All information will remain confidential and reported only in aggregate
1) Military Branch
2) Retired / Current
3) Reserve / Active
4) Years of Service
5) Present / Retiring Rank / Rate
6) Any details I should know about your service (prior enlisted, multi-service, broken service, etc.)
7) What is your understanding of the Don't Ask / Don't Tell policy?
8) Do you have any first hand experience in observing it applied?
9) In your opinion, was it applied equitably?
10) What (if any) changes should be made to Don't Ask / Don't Tell?
Homosexuals in the Military
11) Have you ever personally known homosexuals during your time of service
12) If so, what was your general experience with regard to their service
13) What is your view on homosexuals in the military?
14) Any other thoughts or views on this topic?
I expect the process to take about three weeks. I will only consider input from military personnel.
UPDATE: Well the rounds have left the tube. I have begun to receive some good feedback on the e-mail questionaire. I also created a shorter, even more anonymous, query on Military.com. They have a rather extensive set of forums which are also (supposedly) populated by military personnel. My survey is at DADT Short Survey, direct the more retiring types towards that one.
I may have bitten off more than I can chew!
15 August 2006
Great reading from Armed Forces Journal. The expansion of Clausewitz is right on target! Take some time to preview the future of our military posture in the current conflict.
Clausewitz and World War IV
Very encouraging, if a little late!
Yes, I am working on my DADT piece, I would like to get Major John's view as well as a few contemporary colleagues (anonymously of course!). I plan on building a mailbox for submitted opinions.
13 August 2006
A beautiful church in Valparaiso.
I never finished the Chile story. I owe so many people posts on the recent uptick in challenges to DADT, but I will get to that. In short, the actions by the Virginia group are probably the right way to get attention to the problems with DADT, although I don;t think they are defensible as a legal challenge.
Now about Chile.
On the last night in Vina del Mar, I received word from Naval Personnel Command that I was one of the lucky recipients of more work. More work in the form of selection to Lieutenant Commander.
Woo hoo! It is often said that there are two terrible ranks in the Navy and they both wear gold. Note to self, ask Major John if it's true in the Army.
Anyway, upon receipt of this pleasant news, I decided to celebrate. Alas and alack, there was no one with which to share my good fortune. I managed to find one of my former unit mates and we set off for the nearest Argentinian restaurant.
Well dinner was great and then out into the early South American evening. The fleet was definitely in town and everywhere we looked we saw groups of eager sailors. Not just the usual running shoes / khaki wearing Americans, but Columbians, Ecuadorans, Chileans and Peruvians. A friendly club had a band out front playing Lynrd Skynrd (why does everyone outside the US think playing Sweet Home Alabama will attract Americans? Never mind that it did)
Note - Best rendition of SHA was by all girl Filipino band in Bahrain.
The club was open in the front and dungeon like in the middle. At the back was a dance floor and stage. Both empty, after all it was only 10pm. Finally a lone guitarist arrived to get the growing crowd going with some outstanding flamenco and classical renditions. Then the club music started and the party started to hit its stride.
Now, as Scoot will attest, I am not the best at selecting clubs. Please don't remind me of my past attempts at a New Years extravaganza. However, since I did not technically pick this spot, the event was perfect. At last some of my fellow selectees arrived and in true Navy tradition we ordered rounds and rounds for one another.
Pisco sours, whiskey, G&T. The Chileans pour two to three ounces of alcohol and then hand you the mixer.
Oh my head. No problem, I rationalized, I am walking - a few blocks from my hotel - and not obligated to anything tomorrow except getting back on a plane to the states. At last my meringe skills wore out and I slogged back to my room. All my charges were safely in and I could sleep!
Until just a few hours later.
A raucous noise raised me from my slumber. There was a lot of yelling and running up and down the hall on my seventh floor. Great, I mused, more dingbats from one of the ships waking a guy up.
I poked my head out of my room and was first hit by the distinct smell of smoke.
As I looked at the floor above from the inside curve of the hotel, I noticed the flames and smoke pouring from the eigth floor. The hotel was on fire.
No alarm, no power, no panic. Hotel staff were actively engaged in clearing the building and fighting the fire! I quickly assembled some critical gear and made ready to depart. A few times in and out of my room, until one of the staff insisted I depart. In Chile, I am told, all the firefighters (bomberos) are volunteers. In short order a host of vehicles arrived, along with top rate fire engines and the battle was joined.
We were ushered across the street to await the fate of our comrades and belongings. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The hotel was under control by noon with the upper three floors a total loss (mostly due to smoke and water). Oddly, the ground floor casino was open by 3pm that day!
The Chilean Navy, in their usual quick action, whisked us to their country club cabanas for a change of clothes, shower and lunch. Their hospitality was outstanding. And the view from the cabanas took in the whole curve of the Vina and Valparaiso coastline.
This set of exercises was probably the most rewarding and well conducted I have seen in my Navy career. It is important to note that UNITAS is the oldest Naval exercis in the world, having been started by the Brazilians and continuously executed for 47 years!
If you get a chance to go to Chile, for any reason. Do it. It is a nation of energy and excitement. You will find the best of many worlds with significant promise for the future.
And if you go, drink a Pisco Sour for me.