Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Survey of Veterans

Interesting survey of veterans reported by Jim Dao on the NY times "At War" blog.  Veterans care most about jobs and want to work for the government.  And he reports real joblessness among veterans is double the national average.

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Time I Missed a Drill Weekend

I am sick.  Right now I am getting better, but Friday morning I got a flu that came in stages.  Friday I was throwing up.  Saturday morning I felt OK.  I really felt good mid-day and went to drill.  Saturday evening I was bad again--at the other end.  All night I made a dozen trips to the bathroom and spent most of Sunday in bed.

This morning I ate a little and feel better.  At this point I have lost ten pounds in four days.  Like my other diets, I do not recommend it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ran NYC Half Marathon--Right Through Times Square

Twice a year Times Square gets closed to traffic:  on New Year's Eve for the ball drop and party and  on the Sunday nearest St. Patricks Day for the NYC Half Marathon.

I ran the race this year with 25,000 of my closest friends.  More entered but there was a lottery to get in.  The BEST part of the whole event was running out of Central Park straight down 7th Avenue through Times Square--it is really cool to run down the middle of 7th Ave. but not a good idea most of the time.

Here's what the Ave looks like with nothing but runners.  I am in the middle acting like I won, but there are 12000 people ahead of me and six miles to go!

Newsletter or Facebook Page

Last summer I started a Facebook page for my unit.  But last drill, a couple of people asked about when I was going to do another newsletter.  I wrote weekly newsletters in Iraq, monthly after we got back to America, and stopped once we had a Facebook page.

But new media does not quite replace old media--at least not for everybody.  That newsletter was a lot of work.  The Facebook page is easier because it can be done in little pieces.  Doing both is more than I could ever have time for.

Let me know if you think one is better than the other--assuming I could choose between the two.

And, of course, if you are on Facebook, please "Like" our page!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Liberal Advice from a Conservative

Yesterday I went to a lunch for consultants and industry executives in New York City.  One of the men at the lunch knows I am a soldier and was giving me advice--on how to get all the money I can from the government.

He is a very Conservative guy.  He does not like President Obama particularly for the way he spends tax money.  Having made his Conservative credentials clear, he then said he was really pissed at Obama   because "Obama makes us pay a $200 co-pay for [Army medical coverage]."  This man is a retired colonel, owns a successful business and is eligible for Medicare.  He has private medical insurance plus Tri-Care (Army) and Medicare.

Then he asked how much of a disability payment I was receiving.  

I said "None."

He was shocked.  "You should be getting disability payments.  You deserve it."  

I explained there is nothing wrong with me.  

He said, "It might take two or three physicals, but you should at least get 20 to 40 percent."  

He does.

I know there are real Conservatives who actually don't want to take government money.  But this guy was clearly like the pork-barrel senator who campaigns as a fiscal conservative and votes for every bit of spending he can bring home to his own state.  Like the Amtrak riders who want a "Quiet-Except-for-Me" car on the train.  This guy is a "Stop-Government-Spending-Except-on-Me" Conservative.

Baby Killers

In December of 1973, I came home on leave shortly after being injured in a missile explosion in Utah.  I landed at Logan Airport wearing my Air Force uniform and bandages on my right hand and right eye.  I heard "Baby Killer" as I walked through the terminal.  The Mei Lai Massacre was how many people looked at soldiers at the end of Viet Nam War.

I went to dinner last night with a friend who is not military, but very pro military.  He brought up the Army sergeant who killed 16 Afghans.  He said it was a shame.  I said I was amazed it took ten years for it to happen--especially with Americans getting killed by the Afghans they are training.

Our soldiers, like our politicians are us.  Soldiers are not beamed in from a good planet and politicians from a bad one--which is how many people talk.  We have leaders whom we elect.  We have soldiers who go to our schools and live in our neighborhoods.  Politicians, soldiers, police, teachers and all of the rest of us who take responsibility for some aspect of public life bring humanity to that job--good and bad.  The soldier who turned his weapon on civilians was on his fourth combat deployment and was diagnosed with PTSD.  His fellow soldiers get killed and maimed by people who pretend to be civilians.

The dumbest thing I heard so far was from columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle.  He said "This is a failure of the chain of command from top to bottom."  As far as I could find, Barnicle has never been a link in any chain of command.  If any of his knowledge of the military was first hand, he would know how much everyone has to trust one another and that the men in his chain of command are not jailers.

American NCOs have traditionally had more responsibility and ability to take initiative than other armies. Of course freedom can allow people to do wrong, but that is one of the costs of freedom.  Our military patrols and protects the world with less than two million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen--including active duty, national guard and all reserves.  Soldiers with real responsibility and superior technology are the reasons we can do this.  Barnicle would have some sort of Soviet-style army where even the generals have no latitude.

I wonder if Barnicle could last through four combat tours, see his friends killed and maimed by terrorists and maintain his sanity.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

200 Moms and Babies and Five Soldiers

In 1977, I flew home on leave from Germany on a long-body Douglas DC-8.  These planes were passing out commercial use, replaced by wide-body aircraft, but charter companies still flew these long, narrow planes with more than 40 rows of seats--no first class.

In the 70s when one million Americans lived in Germany (250,000 soldiers and airmen) the passengers on the cheap charters were Army wives and their kids.  In the 70s when our unit got a replacement soldier, I would assume he was 19, from the South and his 17-year-old wife was pregnant with their second child.  He needed a job with benefits.

I was on an eight-hour flight with maybe 230 wives and kids and five soldiers.  From boarding to landing this long, narrow plane echoed with 100+ kids taking crying--sometimes all at once, sometimes in a crescendo that moved from the back to the front of the plane, getting louder then growing softer as the kids got tired.

I was a pack-a-day smoker then.  Probably half the adults on the plane were in the "smoking area" in the back.  You couldn't see the front of the plane when a bunch of us lit up.  In fact, it blurred the definition of second-hand smoke when there was that much smoke in a confined space.

I thought of this flight today because a toddler was howling five rows back.  I thought 'This is SOOO much nicer than 100 kids crying.

The kid is quiet.  Quiet never happened on that charter flight.  Ahhhhhhh!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wearing Uniform--First Class Idea

Today I am flying to Orlando, Florida, for three days for a scientific instruments conference.  Since I now know that in 400 days I will be a civilian again I decided to wear my uniform whenever I could.  Flying is always a good place to have a uniform.  Today I took the AirTran direct flight to Orlando from Harrisburg.  At check-in my bag was free.  The security line is so short at Harrisburg it was only quick to get through security anyway.  I had an aisle seat near the middle of the plane and AirTran boards by rows, so I waited until everyone was almost through the cold Jetway before I boarded.

As I got on the plane, the flight attendant put me in the last seat in First Class.  It's not too big of a deal, but I am writing this post with enough leg room to stretch my legs.  My wife and I ran six miles this morning so it's nice to stretch.

I fly back on Tuesday and go straight to NYC for a black tie dinner at the Waldorf.  I am wearing the Class A Dress uniform with the bow tie.  I go to two or three black tie events a year for work, why not wear green.

Marines New Ad Campaign--TRUTH from a Recruiter!!!

The phrase "My recruiter lied to me!" must go back at least to Sparta. Leonidas probably said, "We'll be home from Thermopolay next month."

But not the US Marines!!  Their new add campaign says the world is messed up and we'll be there!

THAT is truth in advertising.

Heres the story from Jim Dao at the NY Times:

Ad Campaign for Marines Cites Chaos as a Job Perk
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The war in Iraq is over, the troop reduction in Afghanistan is under way and America's next war front is far from clear. If you are a military recruiter, how do market your product?
The Marine Corps thinks it has the answer: focus on something the world has in endless supply -- chaos.
On Saturday, the Marine Corps will open its latest marketing campaign, "Toward the Sound of Chaos," which will use social media, television commercials and print ads to underscore two points: That while no one knows where the next global hot spot will be, the Marines are ready to charge there.
"Even though we're ramping down from the 10 years of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're going to have a chaotic future in front of us, which also portends a potentially busy time for the Marine Corps," said Brig. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commanding general for Marine Corps recruiting command.
The new campaign will also include much information, and dramatic footage of Marines delivering humanitarian aid to nations beleaguered by war, famine or natural disaster, like Haiti, where 2,200 Marines provided medical supplies, food and security after the 2010 earthquake.
The new emphasis is partly the result of a national online survey conducted by JWT, the marketing firm, showing that many young adults consider "helping people in need, wherever they may live," an important component of good citizenship.
"There is a subset of millennials who believe that the military is an avenue of service to others," General Osterman said. "Not only in our nation, but also in others faced with tyranny and injustice."
But, General Osterman said, the Marine Corps remained an expeditionary, combat-oriented force. Post-Afghanistan, it will probably return to its traditional role of attacking mainly from the sea, he added. "Are we getting soft?" he asked. "The answer is no."
The campaign's inaugural television commercial opens with scenes of a smoke-draped horizon and the sounds of gunfire and people screaming in the distance. The terrain is vaguely desertlike, but there are no geographic landmarks -- not even a hill -- to pin down the location. It could be Africa, Central Asia or Kansas.
Marines then sprint into the picture and toward the smoke, F/A-18 fighter jets screaming overhead. Before the minute-long ad is over, virtually every form of Marine war-fighting hardware -- the much-critiqued V-22 Osprey, Cobra attack helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles and a hovercraft -- make guest appearances.
"Most people hear the sounds of chaos and run in the opposite direction," the baritone-voiced narrator says. "But there are a few who listen intently for these sounds, not in the hopes of hearing them, but to help rid the world of them."
The spot ends with a provocative tagline: "Which way would you run?"
The Marine Corps has always been adept at maximizing buzz around its marketing campaigns, and this one -- estimated to cost more than $3 million -- was no different. The television spot leaked onto YouTube on Wednesday and then on Thursday the Marines released Web-only videos on Facebook. The first television commercial will air on ESPN during the Big 12 basketball championship game on Saturday night.
The new Marine Corps campaign echoes in some ways the Navy's current campaign, titled "A Global Force for Good." The Air Force's latest campaign, "It's Not Science Fiction. It's What We Do Every Day," also includes humanitarian themes woven into commercials depicting a vaguely dystopian future.
The Army, which often competes with the Marine Corps for recruits, is evaluating recent survey data to decide whether to revamp its current marketing campaign, "Symbol of Strength," a reference to the Army uniform as a symbol of personal and military strength.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Aviation Ball

On Saturday night, I went to the annual Aviation Ball held at the Hershey Lodge.  It was a beautiful event.  My wife could not go (She would have missed Prairie Home Companion) and she made the right choice.  No one danced and the awards and speeches went on for an hour.  But if you don't like ceremonies, the Army is a bad place to be!!!

Besides the chicken dinner, the real reason I went to a dinner as maybe the only E5 there by choice was to talk to the CSMs in attendance about the status of my request for an extension of my enlistment and to hear what they thought of my chances for getting it.  

Unfortunately for me, it seems betting m=on my extension is like betting on Ron Paul for president--some people are strongly in favor, but the result does not look like Rep. Paul will be moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But I remain hopeful.  The best admins in the brigade put the packet together and sent it to division.  And a warrant officer who knew about the packet thought it was the best one she had seen.  Not that good paperwork seals the deal, but bad paperwork ensures a bad result.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hitching a Ride with the Georgia National Guard

In 1973, I hitched a ride on a C-130 Hercules transport from Denver to Atlanta.  This prop plane cruises at 240mph.  The Georgia Air National Guard flight was scheduled for almost eight hours.  There were 60 high school ROTC cadets aboard in addition to cargo.  The crew gave me a headset so I could help with the high school kids—some of whom got sick, scared or both.  

It was a long, dull ride until about 70 miles outside Atlanta when the plane started to pivot right and then left, like it was rotating on a stick in the middle of the fuselage.  On the intercom I heard the pilots feather one right-wing prop then the next.  The fuel pumps for the right wing died and the plane was swerving like a crab in the sky.

I took the party line and told the kids there was turbulence.  As we descended the co-pilot said we would be going straight in because the remaining engines were overheating.  The pilot then said in a very calm voice.   “I landed one of these bitches in the Nam with just one engine.  We’re fine.”

I went up front and saw crash foam on the airstrip and fire engines on both sides of the runway.  We came in hard, took one big bounce and came to a fairly smooth stop just short of the foam.

As we led the kids out of the plane they knew the crew and I had lied big time about the turbulence.  They could see nothing but emergency vehicles. 

In the terminal the crew chief told me that they would have the fuel line repaired in a few hours and I could fly with them to DC.  I declined, saying I was in a hurry to get home.  I went back outside out of view of the crew and kissed the airstrip, then flew home commercial.

In my admittedly odd life, I have always wanted people around me who could be chased by a raging grizzly bear and think ‘This is a chance to practice sprinting.’

What I did not realize as a young man is that the unflappable folks not only handle the problem of the moment, but calm everyone else around them.

Military Pilots Really Have "The Right Stuff"

Tammie Jo Shults, F-18 Fighter Pilot Today I listened to the audio of pilot Tammie Jo Shults calmly speakin...