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29 August 2006

I recall...



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.

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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

It's all relative...


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

Time is running out...


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

Ask me no questions...


UPDATED!!

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

Background
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.)
DADT Inquiry
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?
Open Section
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.

MAIL!

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

This is a must read...


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

So there I was...


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.

Mmmm steak!

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.

Crap.

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.

10 August 2006

This is no game...



The recent revelations of the multi-pronged attack planned on transoceanic airliners is further evidence just how serious and dangerous this war is. For those just tuning in, take a look at the past few issues of the Economist magazine. In that publication is a list of short news summaries from around the world. They do a nice job of encapsulating the critical news events (without the use of PhotoShop).

What is telling is the number of reported terrorist attacks listed. Most interesting is the attributed culprits behind these attacks. In nearly every event, the culprits are classified as Muslim extremists.

Huh.

I did a post earlier on the fact that we are engaged in World War IV. It is a war which has been brewing (like all wars) for some time. It is a war unlike any other. It is a war in which the impact of clever computer manipulation is just as important as explosives on aircraft or missiles fired from behind apartment homes. It is also unlike any other war in that the goals and demands of the protagonists are not negotiable.

The implementation of Sharia Law.




The restoration of the Caliphate.

The eradication of Israel.

The death of non believers.

We can argue and bicker about the origins of these grievances. We can debate the hijacking of a world religion for sinister purposes. The bottom line is that the war is real, it is lethal and it is not going away via policy alone.

And yet despite the cries by some of our progression towards a new theocratic, fascist state. The United States and the rest of the Enlightened Free World (EFW) remain open and accepting societies. In my own hometown, a beautiful mosque is nearing completion, its minaret visible from most of the city. Remember, this is a town which saw some of toughest struggles in the civil rights movement.

I do not advocate a reduction in rights, the wholesale round up of "profiled" individuals. I do advocate continued, aggressive military prosecution against our enemies. I am in favor of the use of technology to root out the "religious hijackers" who seek to wreak havoc throughout the world. I also want our government to support opposition movements and initiatives which counter the effects of extremist idealogy.

Part of this stems from my firm belief that our values system is superior to those of our enemies. While imperfect, it represents a higher level of social evolution that exist in much of the rest of the world.

Forget oil, this too shall pass - new tehcnologies are already in the offing to supplant this as a principal transportation energy source.

Forget ideas of "crusade" - during time of stress, most societies cling to their core beliefs, this is not indicative of a slide into a religious hegemony. Our enemies are truly opposed to our culture at every level.

Forget Zionism - Israel's current state of conflict resulted from their perceived weakness after they conducted a unilateral WITHDRAWAL and were subsequently assaulted by Hezbollah.

This conflict is not the result of one administration, religion or nation.

It is the very battle between ignorance and elightenment.

It is a war which we can not afford to lose.

09 August 2006

For whom the bell tolls...

Lieberman onward as an independent, McKinney out on her ear.
 
There is nothing more brutal than internecine warfare.  Joe Lieberman waged a tough campaign, but was undone by the concentrated efforts of MoveOn and Lamont's millions.  The internal battle for the heart and soul of the democratic party was on full display in Connecticut.  Let's recall that just a few years ago, Lieberman was a viable presidential candidate.  The senator from Connecticut has been a principled and above all honest broker for his state.  A state which has a disproportionate share of wealth versus its meager population.
 
And yet the party chose to unseat him.  Ironic, there is a good likelihood that he will win as an independent.  This means that a "seat" in the senate has effectively been lost to the democrats.  Lieberman's new campaign may signal a new opportunity for American politics.  Independents at the congressional level may be able to more accurately reflect their voters concerns and speak out openly on issues of importance to them.  No longer tied to the party line, we may see the return of a vital and engaged legislature!
 
Alright, I am putting down the martini.
 
Cynthia McKinney is a perfect example of someone killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Her removal was motivated strictly on her non-performance.  The good people of her district decided that they had enough and replaced her with a candidate who will look out for their interests.  This is the second time that McKinney has been booted out by a more competent candidate.  Will she run as an independent?  Perhaps.  Will that reveal her to be the true icon of race-baiting, conspiracy theorists?  I don't see what more could be revealed. 
 
If we can say one thing about the two defeated incumbents, it is that their honesty was their undoing.
 

06 August 2006

Scoot rocks with "Give A Man Enough Rope...."


Scoot, my much more literate friend has cooked up a worthy commentary on his blog which earned a nod from Slate
For those not familiar with his work, check this out and peruse his blog. I believe he has a number of great and accurate insights into politics, society and culture. I don't agree with some of his views - but this guy is sharp!

Give A Man Enough Rope....

PS - And if you drop by, be sure to let him know I did get him something from Chile, even if it was after a little too much Emergency Protocol 417.

03 August 2006

FINEX...



Whew! It's done. All the ships have come home and the crews are now roaming the streets of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar in search of good food (plenty), great beer (even more) and nightlife (most!).



As one of the embarked controllers for the event, most of my time was spent making sure the Commodore got his reposnse from the National Command Authority (NCA). I can say that the realism of this event was greatly enhanced by the capabilities of the Armada de Chile and the use of the internet. Many of the "injects" were issued as online news in the form of...a blog! This was a superb use of a universally available media to simulate the events in a crisis.



The people of Chile have been great hosts. Their nation is cohesive and vibrant. I was pleased to meet so many very nice and interesting people! I hope to return here again in the near future to take more time to explore this fine country.

02 August 2006

Knock, knock...


Who's there?

KA...

KA who?

KA-BOOM!

What do you get when you lure a SAG (Surface Action Group) out away from the coast and then let them run back into the bow of a Type 209 submarine?

Burning wreckage.

Unlike my colleagues on the Army, there is no advantage to reserve forces in a naval engagement. Warships perform best when they can concentrate their fires and overwhelm any maneuver, armour or defenses of their opponent.

Or take them by surprise from below the sea.

I would not want to contend with any of the Chilean submarine forces. They are sharp.

Das Boot...


Funniest line from the exercise to date;

USCG CUTTER - "Feather in the water has been postiviely identified as floating tree"

TASK GROUP COMMANDER - "Roger, feather is floating tree, not submarine, out."

Feather = periscope travelling through water

Floating Tree = floating tree

Hunh...

Fog of War...

It is dark.  We are in the midst of the FBP (Final Battle Problem).  Neither side truly knows the others intentions.  The seas are perfect, and the moon is only half full.  The Chilean coastline presents a smugglers dream of coves and imposing cliffs, making almost all radar useless.  The coastal waters of Chile are also very, very deep.  This makes the unpleasant Type 209 and Scorpene diesel submarines a particular nuisance.

 

Although each side is being driven to take on certain tasks by the CECG (Combined Exercise Control Group), the initiative and creativity of each is only tempered by the uncertainty of what the other is doing.  In short, it’s just like the real state of conflict.  Where each plan is fabulous, until it comes into contact with the enemy.  What is fascinating about this event is the depth of complexity.  Each side has its own national command authority and attached legal staff.  This is not a simple point and shoot event.  There is even a UN and multinational aspect to the operation.  In short, it’s a total…well you get the drift.

 

Let’s be clear, no one, especially myself, yearns for war.  The thought of its destructive power is an anathema to most soldiers.  What is appealing is the complexities the problems of strategy and tactics present to those engaged.  A general once stated (modern I believe) that he loved combat, but it was war he hated.  I am sure he was vilified for his seemingly barbaric statement, but I am certain that it was the struggle of wills and minds which captured his fascination and not the carnage.

 

Crap, gotta go, Chief Staff is calling… 

01 August 2006

Anchors away...

Well we are well underway off the beautiful Chilean coast.  The operation is going well.  It is a great combination of geo-political and military scenarios.  Much like the real world, it is very complicated.  Forces are deployed with differing objectives from their national command authorities and the presence of asymmetric threats is high.  I really like the multinational environment.  It forces us to look at the proficiency of our neighbors and recognize that we may not have the edge in every area. 

 

All I can say is that most of the SA (South American) navies are very proficient.  Our days have been long and sometimes full of tedium.  The crews on all the ships are fairly young.  Everyone aboard these vessels is technically savvy, maybe too savvy.  It has been a problem with the proliferation of electronic gadgets and their possible compromising of a ship’s EMCON (emission condition).  But in general, it is generally helpful to have a “battle cell phone” when all of your other circuits are down or otherwise occupied.

 

There a few famous examples of military personnel using “standard and public” technology to effect critical operations.  The call for fires in Greneda made through a commercial operator at Fort Bragg from the island by a squad of Army Rangers comes to mind. 

 

Major John has threatened to provide me with an Army issue boot-to-butt course correction if I should set foot inside the pictured McDonald’s.  Don’t worry, sir, I will stay with the local cuisine.  I had also been commenting on Scoot’s blog about military matters and was quoted out of context by Hunter at Random.  I want to be clear about something, US military personnel volunteer for service which is honorable and dangerous.  As a consequence of our service, we are subject to more restriction on our rights and privileges.  This is a voluntary contract and entered into with full knowledge. 

 

While I may not agree with every DoD policy, I adhere to them and seek to influence or change them as my position allows.  It is one of the best aspects of our democracy, civilian control of the military, which allows me to point back to the citizen and remind them of their duty to make sure the military reflects their values and beliefs.