Friday, April 23, 2004

The real thing...

Pat Tillman 11/6/1976-4/20?/2004

I don’t know, and have never met, Pat Tillman. I knew who he was, of course. I still remember hearing that he had enlisted in the Army after turning down a multi-million dollar contract. My first reaction was “What the hell?!?” This was immediately followed by “That guy is my fucking hero.” And yes, those were my exact words. If I remember correctly I was standing outside the 1st Brigade gym at Fort Campbell, KY when I said them.

It wasn’t just the fact that he turned down the money to serve his country. It was the fact that a professional athlete in any of the three major sports would remember his own humanity long enough to feel that he owed something to this great country. I will generalize some things here, and probably do a great injustice to a great many people, but my perception of most professional athletes is of pampered, spoiled, whining drama queens. They seem to revel in their own shallow greatness, preening and prancing like muscular royalty and displaying an enormous affection for the shiny things in life.

In no way do I believe that the pretentious buffoons who make the most headlines ACTUALLY represent ALL of the players behind the headlines, but they are usually the ones on the front page, for good or ill, and therefore shape the way we see them. Simeon Rice, now playing for Tampa Bay, reinforced this perception when he made light of Tillman’s decision to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. He suggested that Tillman “wasn’t all that good anyway” (He set a Cardinals record with 224 tackles in 2000) and that he may have seen too many Rambo movies. I’m not going to attack Mr. Rice here, but it says a lot that he could not respect a decision to lay your life on the line for the country that gave you the opportunity to realize your dreams in the first place.

And please don’t think that I have anything against professional athletes in general. I am a huge Titans fan and have played and watched football since I was a little kid. I only bring up the culture of the “Superstar Athlete” to contrast with someone who saw through the material wealth and excess, and made a conscious decision to stand up for what he believed in.

The real story here is Pat Tillman’s moral character. When he enlisted, along with his brother Kevin, they effectively swore their family and friends to secrecy. There were no interviews or talk shows. They didn’t want the fame and admiration that they deserved, and most likely didn’t want to be thought of as anything other than American Men answering the call to arms. He didn’t just walk away from money… he did an about-face and double-timed away from the fame that would have accompanied a legitimately amazing story. And he walked into an $18,000 a year profession where he would be expected to suffer amazing hardship and deprivation, humiliation and physical breakdown, just to earn the right to wear the black and gold Ranger Tab and the scroll of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the service of his country.

Something even more amazing in my eyes, is the fact that the Army reportedly offered to allow the two college graduates the opportunity to enter the service as Commissioned Officers… and they turned it down to enlist as Specialists. I don’t presume to know the reason for their decision. I do know that the pay difference is substantial, and the Officer corps doesn’t spend much time mopping floors or taking out the garbage. The only thing I can think of is that they didn’t want to be seen to have any advantage over their fellow Rangers, and wanted to earn their own way, based on the merit of their actions.

I have to mention here, that in my opinion, they must have had an outstanding family. They appear to have been brought up with a strong moral compass and a sense of duty and patriotism. They also seem to have had an amazing work ethic that would have served them well in whatever course they took in life. I extend my deepest sympathies to their family and friends, along with all the grieving people in the country who have lost their loved ones in the most important fight of our time.

All the soldiers who have given their lives in this fight are heroes. Pat Tillman is not a hero just for the way he died. Pat Tillman is a hero for the way he lived. He lived for something beyond material success, in a time when most of our time as a society seems to be spent pursuing the next sports car or the bigger television. He was surrounded by the worst victims of excess and selfishness, and stood alone among his peers to offer service to his fellow Americans in a time of war.

Too often Americans pick their heroes from the spoiled, selfish and morally ambiguous members of society. It’s time we realized that we shouldn’t look up to people who look down on us. We need to raise up those who never asked for the recognition they so richly deserve. Pat Tillman will always be one of those Americans.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

No Quarter...

OK ... I wasn't gonna post this yet. But if I wait, I'm not sure when I'll be able to mess with it again. So here it is... unfinished and enedited. Let me know what you think.

Turning the corner

There is a point in each Basic Training cycle where the soldiers start to glue themselves together through personal relationships and pride in the platoon. I believe we hit that point this week. They are beginning to take the good of the group into consideration rather than worrying about themselves all the time.

I began the cycle by (truthfully) telling them that they had no discipline, no pride, no motivation. I compared them to the other platoons frequently, and in essence, threatened them not just with punishment, but mediocrity. I let them know in no uncertain terms that if they continued the way they were going, they had a possibility of graduating, but they would never be able to achieve what they wanted to achieve. They would never be the soldier they thought about being when they raised their hand and swore the oath.

One of the soldiers who had gotten off to a strong start approached me yesterday. He was actually losing ground while the rest of the platoon was gaining. In his eyes, after being punished continuously for other people’s mistakes, we were never going to be able to turn it around and have a good platoon. He was so down on himself and the platoon that he couldn’t see the transformation that was ongoing. Every soldier is different. While the majority of the platoon needed constant strict punishment and corrective training, he needed a pat on the back. Once I informed him quietly that we were not REALLY the worst platoon in C Co, he sort of shook the veil from his eyes and realized that the high standards in our platoon mean that they won’t get those pats on the head as often as others… but they will be better for it in the long run.

I pulled CQ last night for the first time this cycle. CQ is 24 hour duty, keeping control of the company from 2100-0500 while the rest of the Drill Sergeants get some sleep. Soldiers are not stupid. They know which Drill Sergeants are going to be laid back on duty, and which ones are going to be death on any misbehavior. Once the lights go out, soldiers are not allowed to remain awake writing letters, reading mail, talking, or anything else. I warned them before I turned out the lights that I would check, and if anybody was not doing the right thing, there would be severe consequences for everyone.

Sure enough, two of the four bays had people awake doing all of the above. So at around 1000-1030 we all woke up and did PT until there were little puddles of sweat under each soldier. There is nothing soldiers hate more than losing sleep for someone else’s mistake. I sincerely doubt that I will have any more problems on CQ from now on. Like I tell the soldiers, I keep my word, no matter how painful it is.

If I had sat in the CQ office reading my new book (Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson) instead of being up and around the bays enforcing the standard, I would have only reinforced misbehavior by showing tolerance and a lack of resolve. The soldiers would have understood that they could do what they wanted with impunity, because I wasn’t willing to get off my lazy ass and do my duties. And the next time I had CQ it would have been a hundred times worse. Soon, instead of reading letters and talking, it would have been sneaking out of the bay, smoking cigarettes, fights, and fraternization.

I was also having problems with soldiers moving around at the position of attention. They just couldn’t seem to understand the importance of standing stock still, and didn’t grasp how discipline in Drill and Ceremonies translates to discipline in a combat zone. So I stopped using pushups and verbal counseling to correct them. I started “dropping the nuke” every time their eyes or head moved. The nuke is an extra shift of fireguard or CQ duty at night. It’s 2 hours of walking around with a flashlight, instead of sleeping a full night. It took one day for them to stop moving at the position of attention. Once I kept my word and made sure they pulled extra shifts, they knew how serious I was. They knew there was no more tolerance. They knew they paid a heavy and immediate price for a lack of discipline.

The same principle applies in Iraq and the War on Terrorism.

Terrorists are not stupid. They know which world leaders are going to be laid back on terrorism, and which ones are going to be literal death on their barbarism.

I’ve heard several people say “You can’t solve this through military action alone” and I agree completely. But beyond the military action I think we differ on supplementary measures that need to be taken.

I get the impression that many of the Anti-war, Anti-Bush crowd seem to think that this means we should also try to change the way terrorists look at the US. It sounds good… if we could do this we would have very few problems with terrorism. Of course, I’m not sure how we would do this. Other than a return to a total Isolationist foreign policy, and possibly a total conversion to Islam, I’m not sure what would satisfy a group like Al Qaeda. And realistically, even that would just send them in search of a new target for their organization… most likely the state of Israel.

You cannot change the way a group like Al Qaeda thinks. There is more power than piety in their motivation for terrorist attacks. They know that by fighting us unconventionally, they take away our overwhelming power on an open field of battle. They know that by standing against us, they receive a great deal of sympathy from Muslim nations for being the underdog. And now they see in Spain that their methods can be effective. Spain, with their lack of resolve, has done more damage to the entire world’s fight with terrorism than they realize.

Taking away our enormous technological advantage may turn out to be a good thing for us. During the last decade, we were seen as a “paper tiger” because of our lack of commitment and political aversion to casualties. This war will be fought regardless of our intentions. I say, if it must be fought, we will bring the fight to you. You pick the place. You pick the time. You pick the terrain. And we will still prevail. We will fight you in the mountains. We will fight you in the desert. We will fight you in the cities. And we will prevail. The American fighting man is without peer. Our Soldiers and Marines are perfectly ready to fight house to house. If this war were up to the warriors on the ground, we could not lose. The enemy is finding this out the hard way. When it’s face to face, metal to meat, we are stacking the enemy up like firewood. Never again will they mistakenly think that Americans are anything other than professional ass-kickers.

But it is not up to the warriors alone. It is, in part, up to the Administration. With President Bush in the White House, I have no fear about his commitment. With another Administration, we may not be so lucky.

But even more, it is up to the American People. They must understand what is at stake, and the consequences of anything less than total commitment. Here it gets complicated. I think the majority of Americans understand that this is not just about Iraq. Syria and Iran are allowing fighters to cross their borders into Iraq to go fight our boys. Terrorists are expanding their efforts into more and more countries each week. Saudi Arabia was hit by their largest attack in recent history today. This is a Muslim country and government being attacked by alleged Muslims. This war is about Civilization vs. Barbarism. (I heard that quote somewhere and it struck a chord with me… but I won’t claim it as my own) When terrorists wield enough power to change the Spanish government, we are in more serious trouble than we realize. If it works once, it will work again. They will not stop.

The tools of terrorism are too readily available. There is no changing this fact.

The minds of terrorists are not going to be changed. They have enjoyed successes to validate their methods.

Sanctions alone will not work. There is no single country to sanction.

Political pressure alone will not work. Terrorists are not elected and leaders of terrorist supporting states exercise little power over the organizations themselves.

The reality is bigger than anyone has yet realized. This is the Third World War. By the time it is over, we will be lucky if the casualties are not in the quintuple digits. We need to eradicate the terrorists… all of them. If you align yourself with a group who uses barbarism as a political tool, you will die. World leaders need to understand that if you have a terrorist network in your country, you have six months to destroy it… and then we are coming in.

People say that we create terrorists with our heavy handed methods. Wrong. Terrorists create terrorists with their recruitment methods and fiery rhetoric. There is a certain amount of status in being a warrior in any culture. But the truth is, if most people have a choice between economic prosperity and certain death… most will choose the prosperity. Once terrorists start dying off in droves… I strongly suspect it will be harder for them to recruit. This is even more effective when combined with humanitarian aid and a strong PSYOPS campaign getting the truth out there to the Middle East about the contradictions between (what they say is) true Islam and the terrorist brand of perverted Islam.

The consequences of failure in this fight are severe. If we don’t want to live in a world where the political tool of choice is not the negative TV ad, but rather the car bomb and the envelope full of anthrax or ricin, we had better realize that there can be no quarter. We still need to take the moral high ground when dealing with civilians. But when dealing with enemy combatants, there must be no hesitation. Cease fire my ass. Don’t wait for them to fortify their positions or come to us. Go in after them and kill every last one. If they take up arms against Civilization, they must pay a heavy and immediate price. There can be no tolerance or second chances.

“Avoid overcrowding at Guantanamo Bay… Aim center mass.”

shaping up...

I had CQ (24 hour duty) last night, so I slept today. I was going to write something about the soldiers, but it turned into a huge thing about the War in Iraq and with Terrorism. It’s not finished, but I need to spend some more family time before I go to work again.

So to make a long story short, literally, I’ll just say that the soldiers are starting to shape up and I would say that my platoon now has a common goal and an understanding of the consequences for lack of discipline. I have a lot of potential in my platoon and, surprisingly, nobody who can’t do it if they want to.

I’ll probably finish the big story tomorrow if I get home early.
… out

Monday, April 19, 2004

Check this out...

Sometimes you just have to let out your inner 17 year old.

If you need a laugh, check this out.

WARNING: not for kids, the easily offended, or anyone without a (raunchy) sense of humor.

Nine Reasons Not To Drink

Sunday, April 18, 2004

A reminder to always practice good OPSEC...

I wish I spoke Russian...

I Googled myself today (I can hear Beavis and Butthead going ballistic in the background lol) and found that I had been quoted on some Russian forum about something of a military nature. Here's the quote...

What makes a Warrior? If you ask me, the answer would be the willingness:eagerness even:to close with and destroy the enemy. Face to face, hand to hand, metal to meat:most people can't understand this. . . . People who want to serve their country adequately, but not by spitting in the face of the enemy while they twist a bayonet in their guts, don't usually join the Marines . . . or the Army Infantry.

It came from the Army Infantry/Marines/Eliteness post and I have to admit I was kinda flattered. I wish I knew what they were saying.

What if it was like...

Larvadania russki flopstanistika reshutinak fromegeria splinknat farkn dropstuttinkin sergeridan rusba werkaten scragis " (my quote)"

ascintinu rikintis cregaris fortuna favet politburo registin

And it really meant...

For an example of how culturally and intellectually insignificant this jackass is you would have to actually read some of his drivel. Here is the worst thing he has ever written "(my quote)"

Let's all sit back from the keyboard for a second while we ponder his literary putridness

Then again it could mean...

I was reading an american soldiers blog today and I realized that one of the world's incredible literary treasures is being wasted. We must organize a campaign to endow him with a trust fund sizable enough to allow him to do nothing but write for the rest of his life. check out his genius "(my quote)"

It would be a crime against humanity if we allow him to remain unpublished

OK... wellllll I'm guessing it falls somewhere in the middle.


I have the day off today. first time since we picked up. I have so much free time I don't even feel right lol. My partner had CQ today so he had to be there anyway.

I'll probably post something more later, because after that will be another long time without the opportunity.

I have thought of several things to write serious stuff on, but have been too busy to write anything down.