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Showing posts from December, 2016

Russian Soldiers/Mothers/Wives Talk About Afghan War

I left the U.S. Army in November of 1979, discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey, after 6-1/2 years of active duty service.  From 1976 to 1979 I was a tank commander in West Germany, waiting for a war that never happened in Cold War Europe.

Less than a month after I got out, the Cold War got hotter when all NATO forces in Europe went on high alert because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. There were worries at the time that this invasion was a feint and the Soviets were about to invade western Europe.  Neither the Soviets or NATO could know the Afghan War would help to bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet War in Afghanistan lasted ten years and became their Vietnam War.  After ten long years, 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands more wounded the Soviet Union lost that war, as we did the Vietnam War.

The similarities go sadly further.  In her book Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghan War, Svetlana Alexievich publishes interviews with soldiers, mothers, wives…

Proud Draft Dodgers Can Now Sneer at Veterans

I was going to write a different post about working with draft dodgers throughout my professional life from the mid 80s to 2015. During that time, draft dodgers who I worked with were deferential to me or avoided me. Because the men I worked with in multi-national companies, especially energy companies, did not serve, but were Conservatives.  Although it was only my word, I began to think of them as NeverServatives.  Some changed their political allegiance with the election of Ronald Reagan, some were always Conservatives, like Dick Cheney who famously said he had better things to do than serving in the Vietnam War.

But this evening a man driving a black Lexus like the one above parked in front of a local Starbucks in a way that blocked both the handicap ramp in the sidewalk and the fire hydrant.  The arrogant SOB at the wheel of this expensive car jumped as much as a 250+pound man can from a drivers seat when I pointed out the error of his ways.  He was belligerent and said he would…

Who WILL Fight Our Wars? People of Color

My youngest son Nigel is a very proud member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) chapter at McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa.  We went to a military ball on Friday night for his chapter and two other chapters in nearby York and Reading.

More than 100 students and their families attended the event which concluded with a really tough drill and ceremonies competition.  Looking around that room, I saw mostly Hispanic boys and girls. Of the 100 or so students, about 75 were Hispanic, 15 were African-American, 8 were Asian and two were white.

These students are training to get a head start into College ROTC programs and become military officers.  Nigel said ten of the students in his chapter are Hispanic, three are African-American and three are from Nepal.  No white kids.  There are three girls in the program, all Hispanic.

At both ends of my career, during the Vietnam War and in Iraq, the active duty military is overrepresented with Hispanics and other immigrant …

Three Books About Before and After War by Kazuo Ishiguro

[I am reposting this essay because some ten of my posts are getting odd traffic. Just an experiment.]



This summer I have read three more books by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I have just two books to go to read all of his seven novels and a collection of short stories. 

The first novel I read, and still my favorite, is "The Remains of the Day." Like the novels I will talk about below, it is about life in the years before and after World War II.  We see the world change and we see the effects when great men make great mistakes in all of these novels.

In the three novels I read recently, World War II is in the background, but we see very little fighting.  We see lives changed, relationships made and ruined and the horror of war lurking somewhere just beyond the page. 

Ishiguro's first novel,"A Pale View of Hills," is set in Nagasaki just after the War.  The narrator is Etsuko, a young woman who has a troubled friend who is a single mother.  The narrator eventually marries, has …

Recruiter Update and ASVAB Scores are No Help for Old Men

On Friday last week, I visited Army National Guard Recruiter SFC Doug Kicklighter.  We were talking about one of my sons possibly joining the Army.  Doug also let me know that I had mixed apples and oranges on the scores I used in my previous post on drill sergeants and recruiters.

A recruit must have and AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) score of 31 or better to enlist.  But that score is on a 99-point scale.  I said it was on a 160-point scale like all the individual scores on the ASVAB (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery).  So the 31-point minimum is out of a possible 99, not 160.

Of the ten scores that make up the ASVAB, the one most often referred to is the GT (General Technical) score.

A GT score of 110 or above allows a soldier to qualify for any job in the Army.

I took the ASVAB test on April 18, 2007, to re-enlist after a 23-year break in service. I was 54 years old.  When I finished the test at MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in Mechanicsburg, th…

Drill Sergeants and Recruiters: Enemies Forever!

Drill Sergeants and Recruiters:  Enemies Forever!
In popular culture around the world, drill sergeants or training sergeants are powerful and terrifying. 
Recruiting sergeants, on the other hand, are the sales reps of the military: deceptive, pliable, apt to promise much and deliver little. 
These two types of sergeants are in permanent conflict, but the real power, surprisingly, is on the side of the smiling recruiter, not the screaming drill sergeant. 
The job of recruiters is to fulfill their quota of new soldiers, the raw material the drill sergeant then turns them into the soldiers who will be the army for the months and years to come.  
For the drill sergeant to do the best job, the recruiter should entice fit, smart, eager, aggressive teenagers well brought up by loving parents.  These new soldiers will be mentally and physically ready to become the best soldiers on the planet, striving with each other to be the best at running, shooting, studying, cleaning and crawling through the…

Does the Economy Suck? My Army/Civilian Pay Comparison Says YES!

In the early 1983, I was a 30-year-old Army Reserve tank commander and a dock worker at Yellow Freight Systems in Lancaster, Pa.  For a drill weekend, I earned $180.  At Yellow Freight I earned $12/hour with full medical, dental and even retirement if I had stayed longer.

Thirty years later in 2013, I was an Army National Guard sergeant and earned $360 for a drill weekend.  My Army pay had doubled.  Yellow Freight's Lancaster terminal closed years ago.  But similar work in the Lancaster area pays $12/hour with fewer or no benefits.

In the 1980s, major trucking companies employed thousands of workers to transfer freight from one truck to another.  Computers now consolidate freight in a way that needs far less handling and far fewer workers.

Most of the soldiers I served with in the 68th Armor in 1983 had blue collar jobs and earned a decent living, as I did, with their hands and backs.

Many of the soldiers I served with in the Army National Guard 30 years later were unemployed…

Deer Pays Tuition for a Semester at Penn State

1976 Chrysler Newport, 2-door with 400 CI V8 engine.
The first deer I killed in Pennsylvania payed a full semester's tuition for me at Penn State Harrisburg.

When I left the Army in 1979, I needed a car.  High gas prices made gas guzzler used cars ridiculously cheap.  So I bought the car in the picture above for $800.  This 22-foot-long, six-passenger car got 9 milers per gallon in town, maybe 17 on the highway at 55mph on cruise control.

A year after I bought it, I was driving north on PA Route 230 at night when a deer jumped from the side of the road into the path of my two-ton car.  The white-tailed doe flipped into the air.

I stopped as fast as I could and walked back to the carcass.  Within a minute, a blue pickup truck pulled of the road and stopped ten feet from the deer and I.  Two big guys in coveralls got out.  They looked at the deer, looked at me and said, "You want that?"

"No," I said.

The one on the right picked up the deer, carried it to the be…