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Showing posts from December, 2015

A World of Friends I Met in Iraq

Today is Fred Lameki's birthday.  He is my only Facebook friend from Kenya.  In fact, the only people I know personally from Kenya, Uganda and several other central African countries are people I met in Iraq.  Fred, like many people from Africa and south Asia worked on Camp Adder, Iraq, and at bases across the country making food and performing a hundred services for to keep the bases working while the soldiers patrolled the ground and the skies.

Most of the baristas in the Green Bean coffee shop were from Nepal, the affable Fred Lameki was one of the Africans who worked making designer coffee for soldiers.

As this new year begins, Iraq seems long ago and far away.  I am glad that with all the money we spent winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq, that some of it went to providing good-paying jobs for men like Fred.

Happy Birthday my friend.

I hope to see you again some day.

Year End Wrap Up: Exercise Turns Civilian, Reading Tops Riding

For the first time since I started riding a bicycle again in 1987, the total number of book pages I read exceeded the number of miles I rode.

This year I rode more than 8,000 miles, probably 8,300 by December 31, but I have read more than 10,000 pages in more than 50 books.  
Also, because I had trouble with my shoulder, I stopped doing pushups.  Every year since I re-enlisted I did more than 6,000 pushups, nearly 15,000 in 2011, but this year, less than 300.  
And I pretty much gave up running after the Ironman triathlon.  I also stopped swimming in September when I took four college classes.  But in the weirdest stat for the year, I swam more miles than I ran:  87 miles swimming, 74 running.  
The most troubling, beautiful, sad book I read this year was "Life and Fate" by Vasily Grossman.  It is the 20th Century version of "War and Peace" centering on Stalingrad.  
Eleven of the 52 books I read this year were written by Russian authors, but all were in English. …

Our Former Allies: Training Iranian MIssile Technicians at Lowry AFB

Until the Ayatollahs took over in 1979, Iran was an ally of the United States.  They were a very close Cold War ally, bordering the Soviet Union.  Until the Shah's government fell, tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers and airmen trained in the United States.

For eight weeks in 1972, I was part of the training.

After Basic Training in April 1972, I went to Lowry Air Force Base near Denver, Colorado, for an 8-month missile electronics school.  The first eight weeks was basic electronics.  I learned basic electronics from a Ham Radio operator in the town where I grew up, so I tested out of the course, but had eight weeks to wait.

During that eight weeks, I was a tutor for lagging students and foreign students.  During the Spring of 1972, many of those students were Iranian sergeants.  They needed help with vocabulary in addition to the electronics themselves.  It was fun to be able to teach these older guys how a capacitor worked or how to calculate resistance and power in a circu…

Cold War Tanker and Star Wars

In May of 1977 the first Star Wars movie was released in America.  Several months later the hit movie came to Armed Forces theaters in West Germany, including the theater on Wiesbaden Air Base.

But many soldiers in 1-70th Armor missed the new film.  We and most other combat arms soldiers were on REFORGER 1977.  When we got back, the next movie was in the theaters.  The only way we could watch it was in dubbed German in town.  We Cold War soldiers missed Star Wars.

I did not leave Germany until November of 1979 and was not on post when the movie came back.  I finally saw Star Wars in the spring of 1980 in an independent theater that was re-running the film just before the June release of the second (and best) of the the first three films, "The Empire Strikes Back."

But I did not see that film until fall in that same theater.  In June of 1980 I had the worst motorcycle accident of my life.  I spent two weeks in the hospital and had surgery on both legs to repair the damage fr…

My Favorite Star Wars Magazine Cover--About a Real War

In 1980, just two months before "The Empire Strikes Back" premiered in America, Britain declared war on Argentina and sent a fleet 8,000 miles to take back the Falkland Islands from an Argentine invasion force.

Newsweek ran this cover.  My favorite magazine cover ever.

I have a longer Star Wars post tomorrow, but I wanted to post this separately.

Adultery and Hypocrisy in the Army

"Don't drink! Don't watch porn! Don't commit adultery!"  These warnings were at the top of the list of the many warnings soldiers received on their way to deployment in Iraq.  I got a half-dozen of these briefings during training for deployment in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and in Kuwait before we actually flew to Iraq.

These briefings were always ironic, sometimes funny.  In 2009 I wrote about one briefing by our 25-year-old company commander who told the married guys about keeping their wedding vows.  He was not married, but he did have a girlfriend.  His lecture is here.

Of course, the hookup culture on the big bases in Iraq was as vibrant as on a college campus.  What the Army was trying to stop was the very common and toxic relationships in which a young enlisted woman becomes the deployment girlfriend of a senior sergeant or officer.

More senior officers than that young commander were more gentle in their warnings.  They said don't sleep with other soldier…

Speeches, Spys and Sleeping NATO

One of the first things we soldiers of 1st Battalion-70th Armor were told when we deployed to West Germany was, "Sleep NATO."

Even in the 1970s, people from Soviet-controlled nations were fleeing for the West and prosperity.  And among the immigrants were spies.  Spying is a profession with both men and women, but our leaders were mostly concerned about female spies.

Men are most likely to forget their inhibitions and talk too much when their egos are inflated and they are feeling adored and impressive.  In my work in corporate communications, I have occasionally dealt with the aftermath of a CEO or other top executive who gives a speech then answers a reporter's questions afterward saying way too much.  Once in Singapore the CEO I worked for gave a speech that got a resounding ovation in Singapore.  A reporter asked him about a plant we were building in China and our proud, happy CEO told the reporter, "Yes, it is ahead of schedule."

We had never admitted …

Μολων Λαβε: The Tattoo and the Myth

When I re-enlisted in the Army in 2007, I saw several soldiers with Μολων Λαβε tattoos and Μολων Λαβε stickers on their pickup trucks.  I can read Ancient Greek so I looked up the phrase and found it attributed to Leonidas of the Spartans, the leader of the 300 defenders of Thermopylae.

According to one version of the battle, when Xerxes, King of Persia demanded the surrender of the vastly outnumbered Spartans (100,000+ Persians against 300 Spartans), Leonidas answered "Μολων Λαβε" or "Come and take them."  The phrase has come to be seen as the inspiration for the sentiment "I won't give up my guns until you pry my cold, dead hands from them."

 I am currently taking a course in Ancient Greek in which we are reading the Histories of Herodotus.  Right now we are reading the account of the Battle for Thermopylae.  Herodotus wrote about 50 years after the battle and does not mention the exchange between Xerxes and Leonidas.  I asked the professor.  The …

How to Lose an Empire

Bill Kristol, Editor of the Weekly Standard,  NeoConservative, Hawk, Never Served, Avoided Draft
When you hear Conservatives bemoaning America's loss of power, prestige and leadership, the blame will be somewhere other than in themselves.  
The problem is in full view on every Republican debate and and from the top down in the most recent Bush administration.  NOT the previous Bush administration.
The reason the Roman Empire fell will be the same reason we eventually collapse.  Rome went from city to state to ruler of the known world with an Army in which every citizen served.  To be a senator, to be a noble, meant fighting for Rome.  From the founding of America until the end of the first Bush administration, American leaders were men who served their country.  Some were great soldiers, some just showed up, but everyone served unless, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they could not even walk.
The beginning of the end for Rome was when the nobility stopped serving in the Army.  Fu…