Thursday, July 24, 2008

Formal IVAW Counseling

This isn't about my leadership. This is about a friend's leadership-and if he wants me to, I'll edit this to add his name.

My friend is a servicemember. He is also an IVAW member. This is legally well within his rights.

This counseling was given directly by Colonel Gary A. Reese, 67th Troop Command.

For further identification, in case there was any question, the one who felt it necessary to formally counsel my friend and fellow NCO personally about his IVAW participation.

I have reproduced his counseling here, with commentary.

Purpose of Counseling:
1. To summarize the results of an AR 15-6 investigation conducted to determine whether SGT [IVAW Member] violated Multi-National Force-Iraq Policy, DoD regulation, or the Iowa Code of Military Justice by participating in a presentation for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and whether SGT [Member] violated DoD regulation by engaging in IVAW activities while in military status or on Iowa National Guard property.
2. To counsel and advise SGT [IVAW Member] on acceptable Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer Behavior.

I love how all of these investigations go contrary to every other investigtion held in the Army, and don't ever bother to actually talk to us, those who have been suspected of 'crimes'. I wonder if perhaps they're afraid to talk to us and hear in our own words why we are opposed to this war, and how we can still keep the faith while doing so? Also, since when do officers counsel NCOs on proper NCO behavior? This is wrong, wrong, wrong, from start to finish.

Key Points:

1. Summary of the 15-6 investigation:

a) SGT [IVAW Member] is an active member of the IVAW; his membership does not violate any statute, regulation, or directive; his participation to date does not violate any statute, regulation or directive.

Mighty nice of him to admit that. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

b) Without a doubt, SGT [IVAW] used what appears to be a picture of a detainee in an IVAW presentation. Taking pictures inside a detention facility is a violation of unit policy and directives. Their (yes, that's his spelling)
is no proof that SGT [IVAW] took the picture of the detainee used in the IVAW presentation. No determination has been made in regards to any statute SGT [IVAW] may have violated by using that detainee photo.

Wow. You know, it's good to know that after Winter Soldier, the Army is finally investigating-the people who brought the issues to its attention. To date, multiple IVAW members have been investigated (no charges) for their actions. To date, we are not aware of any soldiers who actually committed the crimes and problems who have been investigated. Good to know where the Army's priorities are.

c) SGT [IVAW Member] did make inferences of incompetence and accusingly focused the blame for the deaths of 2 detainees towards those in his wartime chain of command, at least twice in his presentation. Comments directed towards CPT Hegae (sp?) and SFC McArnor were not direct accusations of military law or Law of Land Warfare violations, but inferred both Soldiers were incompetent, out of touch, without compassion, and contributing to the deaths of the 2 detainees-these comments could result in civil action against SGT [IVAW]. Additionally, the comments SGT [IVAW] directed against an officer and senior NCO are very close to the threshhold of violating Chapter 29.88 of the Iowa Code of Military Justice: Insubordination towards warrant officer, NCO or PO "Treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment towards a warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office shall be punished as a court-martial shall direct."

Inferences of incompetence, being out of touch, and without compassion. First of all, I'll note that he doesn't address the matter of whether the inferences were true. Secondly, being "out of touch and without compassion" is not, as far as I know, disrespectful. If my first sergeant is a hard son of a bitch and I say so, am I going to be up for disrespect? No, he'd probably laugh and revel in the title. And is the good sergeant supposed to just ignore incompetence he sees? I love all the "close" and "could" language. It's essentially: You haven't done anything wrong, but you almost could have! People could hold it against you! They're not, but they could!

d. SGT [IVAW] did not violate statute, regulation, or directive by engaging in IVAW activities while in a military status or on Iowa National Guard property.

Mighty generous of you.

2. Additional discussion:

a) It is a violation of set policy and directives to take pictures of detainees-violators will be prosecuted.

Good to know it's only against policy to take pictures. Not to abuse them-just the pictures are against policy.

b) SGT [IVAW] is placing himself at personal risk for civil actions from CPT Hogan and SFC McArter, I highly suggest that he refrain from the accusatory comments he continues to direct towards them. Future acts of insubordination will not be tolerated and will be punished by disciplinary action.

He's so kind, looking out for the good sergeant's welfare. Pure benevolence, I'm sure. Note that he doesn't say how or why implying these individuals are incomptetent, out of touch, and lacking in compassion is somehow insubordinate behavior. Well, [IVAW], you've been warned!

c) Active membership in IVAW is not an ethics violation, conducting IVAW business on duty is an ethics violation.

So remember, [IVAW], schedule all your interviews and panels after COB. Also, anyone else note that he hasn't put down on paper any counseling on Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer behavior?

Plan of Action:

1. SGT [IVAW] must refrain from insubordination, future acts of insubordination will result in disciplinary action.

He hasn't committed it yet. As the Colonel himself admitted.

2. SGT [IVAW] will need to consider the incompatibilities that exist between the Army and IVAW, to mitigate dilemmas, he may need to choose one over the other.

Nice try. I have every faith that he's considered, realized there aren't any, and is perfectly capable of maintaining a good, healthy balance.

3. SGT [IVAW] needs mentorship on Army Values and the role of the NCO- CSM Breitsprecker will provide this.

Actually, I don't think he does-but if he does need mentorship on Army Values, I'm happy to help my buddy out. To this end, I have rewritten my piece on Army Values. Perhaps I should send it to the colonel, to ease his mind. At least he does recognize that the role of an NCO is NCO business. Belatedly.

SGT [IVAW]'s response:

I disagree to the extent that truth is an absolute defense to any claims of slander and thus I do not feel I am at risk of losing a slander suit. Also, since all comments were made out of uniform and not in the presence of the individuals criticized it was not treating them with contempt or disrespectful language + thus was not insubordination.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The tattoo, and the rhyme which created it.

How many miles to Babylon?

Three score and ten

Can we get there by candlelight?

Yes, and back again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Your Questions Answered

For a light treat and relaxation break for me, I'm choosing my next post to be answering the questions of some of the google searches that lead individuals here. Some serious, some silly, I will answer as many as I can until I get tired of it.

Can active duty personnel grow beards on leave?

Why yes, yes they can, and frequently do just to shock everyone. Congratulations, gentlemen, it works. Now please shave that facial...not

Why is it important to show up in the correct uniform for duty?

Well, hopefully my earlier post on the uniform regulations applying to protesting helped you. However, it is important to show up in the correct uniform because it's one of the easiest things to do in the Army. It's even easier than showing up at the correct time, because your clothes are already picked out for you, like your mother did when you were five. If you show yourself to be incapable of wearing the clothing already picked out for you, it is like wearing a big red sign saying "I Am Your Friendly Platoon Idiot". Unless more than three people are all also wearing the wrong uniform, in which case it's a communications issue.

Do women serve in active battle in military?

Well, the short answer is 'yes'. Women are not supposed to be assigned to combat MOSes, but in a world without real "front lines", yes, women are often in active battle and active combat zones, whether for better or worse.

Can you sell DoD Sapi plates?

I have no idea what led you to my blog, guy, but you sound intensely dishonest. Give your stuff back to the nice government so someone else can have some equipment, dude.

What did the patriot soldiers eat?

Whatever they could get, most likely.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Army Censors CPT G

Thankfully, I've put a disclaimer on this blog, so I can sound off with just what I feel about this. Please insert the sound of someone cursing incoherently for about two minutes, as I don't want to foul up my blog with it, but that is exactly what I'm thinking right now.

For those of you who weren't aware, there was a cav officer, pseudonym LT G. He was a great officer and a great blogger, over at Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal. He followed OPSEC rules, and didn't post about missions. When he was offered the position of Company XO, however, he turned it down.

His superiors didn't take it so kindly, and when he posted about it, he was ordered to delete his entire blog-going back years-and to cease posting at all.

In honor of CPT G, the post that caused all the commotion has been reproduced here in full.

I’d brushed aside the informal inquiries for months now. No, not me. Not interested. Keep me on the line. I want nothing to do with a lateral promotion to XO (Executive Officer) that involves becoming a logistical whipping boy and terminal scapegoat for all things NOTGOODENOUGH. I’ve been out here in the wilds too long, dealing with matters of life and death, to go back to Little America for PowerPoint pissing matches. Not me. I’m that too skinny, crazy-eyed mustang who drives a hippie van with a McGovern bumper sticker and keeps his hair long and actually read the counterinsurgency manual rather than pretending he did, even quoting it during meetings and out in sector in this era of recentralized warfare, remember? You aren't gonna break me, no matter how enticing the fires of the FOB are.

Semper Gumby.

I guess they forgot, and instead focused on matters of competency. Cue outright offer.

Cue LT G “thanks but no thanks” response.

Cue illogical backlash from higher, acting like a spurned teenage blonde whose dreamboat crush tells her point-blank that he prefers brunettes.

Q finding myself on the literal and metaphorical carpet of multiple field-grades, sometimes explaining, sometimes listening.

Mostly listening.

Yes, Sir. I’m getting out. No, I’m sure. Definitely sure. Surer than sure. What am I going to do? Don’t tell him Option A, he’ll scoff at Option A. He believes dreams are only for children. Option B will suffice. Well Sir, I’m going to go back to school, somewhere on the East Coast. Haven’t decided if I’ll focus on the Spanish Civil War or Irish History yet, though. I think I’d be a pretty good wacky professor. I already like to ramble and I look good in banana yellow clip-on ties. Sir.

No, Sir. I’m not saying that at all. I would absolutely bust my ass as an XO, and perform the job to the best of my ability. I’m just saying I’d be screwing a peer of mine, who is staying in, and could use this professional development, benefiting both him and the big Army in the long run. Uncle Sam agrees with me.

No Sir, I don’t think I’m selling myself short. Recognizing one’s own weaknesses isn’t a weakness in and of itself. Crushing balls is only my thing with people who aren’t wearing an American uniform.

If I throw enough clutter in the way, something will stick.

This is the Army, son. Your opinion doesn't matter.

Roger. Acknowledged. I figured I'd proffer it, just in case.

You need to start thinking big picture, Lieutenant. That’s what officers do.

I roll out of the wire everyday to bask in a third-world cesspool craving my attention for nothing more than the most basic human need -- hope. Is there a bigger picture than that, or just different vantage points from safer distances?

Yes Sir, I will remember to think things out more rationally next time. (Pause long enough to make the point that this was already a well-thought out decision.) Of course. Sir.

No Sir, this isn’t just because I want to stay with my platoon. (Maintain eye contact so he doesn’t think you’re lying, for the love of God, maintain eye contact!) I won’t lie though, Sir -- it was a factor. Just not my motivation.

Nice work, liar.

Another reason? Well, Sir, two of my best friends in the world are LT Virginia Slim and LT Demolition. If I were to become their XO, I would be extremely uncomfortable with possibly having to order them and their men to their deaths. As their peer, I should be right there next to them. Hell, I probably would insist on it.

Yes, I know that was a good point. Don’t say that out loud. Don’t say that out loud. Phew. That was a close one. I almost out-louded rather than in-loaded.

Yes Sir, I have full confidence in my platoon to be able to succeed without me. SFC Big Country would be more than capable of performing the job of a platoon leader. But he’s an NCO. He shouldn’t have to deal with lieutenant bullshit. That’s my bullshit to deal with. I’m the soldier’s buffer. (Cough. From you. Cough.) If a butterbar were here, I’d understand. That’s the natural order of things. But since an opening occurred without a backlog, I really strongly really definitely really definitively believe that it should go to a LT who wants it. Hell, there are some of them out there who NEED it. Aren’t I being a team player here?

The ballad of a thin man walking a thin rope. Moonwalking a thinly-veiled rejection of his superiors’ life decisions. Wondering why they are taking it personally. People are different. They want different things out of existence. Let’s not act like I’m a ring of Saturn stating the case that Pluto’s planethood should be reconfirmed.

Don’t fall on your sword, Lieutenant. No one likes a martyr.

Can’t help it, I’m Irish. And. Yes. They do.

Fine, I’m not going to make you do it. (Even though I spent three days trying to do so.) But you are now on my shit-list, and I want to fuck you over for daring to defy and defying to dare. A bullshit tasking will eventually come down the pipeline, and I got a rubber stamp with your name on it. And yes, I know your performance has been outstanding, and we have consistently rated you above your peers, at the top echelon. Doesn’t matter now.

You’re right. It doesn’t. Doesn’t matter at all. Even if I’ve only haggled a few more months with the Gravediggers, it was worth it; I came here to fight a war, not to build a resume. My men need me. And. I need them. It would have been worth it for a few more days.


Mustangs don’t blink.

You know where we learned how not to?

It wasn’t behind a desk.

Every day of free-roaming makes it worth it.

Don't worry, folks. Somewhere, there's an archive of all formerly-LT-G's postings. I'm not posting the link, but you can email me for it. I don't want the Army to shut that down, too. His writings are truly a marvel. Also, his fiance is now blogging from his old spot.

But I really hate this. CPT G wasn't IVAW. He wasn't even aggressively political. He wasn't even really against the war, other than some things about how it played out. They didn't censor him for some great plan. They censored him for petty, petty reasons-that they were upset that they looked like the petulant children they truly were.

My props to you, CPT G, and all the best. I understand that you are the type who will follow that order, no matter how BS it is. Hopefully they will soon see the error of their ways.

For the rest of you: keep blogging!

Education! F&*% Yeah!

I know it's a little late. We've had awesome educational benefits for almost a full week, and no post! I'd love to tell you that I was drinking away the celebratory time, but truth be told, I was just busy doing work. And promoting this exciting opportunity.

The Webb GI Bill, that thing everyone said would never make it, has been passed.

What does that mean? That means that even soldiers with families, who were trying to figure out how they could go to school and still have a place to live without getting a full-time job, can afford to better themselves and move up in the world.

This bill means a lot to me. I first found out about this bill before I was an IVAW member, when I was first having the stirrings of political thought as a member o the Armed Forces. I had worked for a Senator's campaign, in a private capacity, and gone to the parties afterwards. I even got into Clinton's bash by the expedient of standing at the door and asking the aide if Senator Clinton didn't have any space at her party for a soldier from New York recently returned from overseas. (Yes, I'm a bastard).
But after that, while in the area, I decided to visit all the Senators I could and talk to them about what was important to me-the paucity of the Montgomery GI Bill.

I have to say that the staffers were very polite to me. I made it past the greeters each and every time. I even met and shook hands with McCain, believing at the time that he was a principled veteran who would stand up for our rights. Then I got the word from one senator's office that they and Senator Webb were cooking up something that would "make me very happy". I headed on over to see Webb, who was taking his congratulations in an incredibly pressed room. I shook his hand as well, talked a bit about my military service, and asked what he had going on. The man said it'd be out in a few weeks, and to get with his staffer and she would call me.

Lo and behold, I got a nice call when the plan got unveiled. And I was excited. At last somebody had put together a GI Bill with teeth. But I was also mystified-why weren't more senators signing onto it? Why was everyone talking about it like a pipe dream?

For nearly two years, this battle was fought. For quite some time everyone dismissed it, and it was said it would never happen.

Then the veterans got involved.

IAVA, and VFW, and AUSA, and IVAW, and VoteVets, and pretty much every veteran's organization out there got involved and started rallying their people to get involved. I made calls and visits. Others made calls and visits, and sent letters. For those who say that soldiers and veterans don't have political opinions, it is important to remember that it is servicemembers and veterans who helped turn the tide and get this bill made into law.

Your opinions, your thoughts, your feelings, ARE important. And you need to flex those long-unused muscles. Don't just stop there-let your voice be heard in other matters. There are still veteran's issues that need help. We still have veterans being foisted off with shoddy healthcare. We still have not enough review for PTSD cases. We still have atrocious medical care even for servicemembers.

Let's work, people. Let's work, and let's take initiative, and let's bring about the world we want to see.

The passing of the Webb GI Bill is proof that we can do it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Independence Day

"Gentlemen cry peace, peace, but there is no peace, the war is already begun!" -Patrick Henry, 1775

July Fourth is here. I know that to a lot of people, Americans, all it means is fireworks in a night sky, barbecues and roasting meat, hot summer days and cool beers. For too many people it's just a holiday, an extra day off from work where they get to wear red, white, and blue. If they are feeling particularly patriotic, they may whisper to their children, "This is the day America became free."

I don't wear red, white and blue, and I don't wave paper flags. Sometimes I don't even have a celebration. The Founding Fathers certainly had no celebration, tucked away as they were, rebelling from a distance, the certain underdog against England's might. No, how I choose to commemorate July Fourth is by recommitting myself to living by the ideals which were blazed that day.

I think of a handful of men, who gathered together despite a repressive occupation, who joined their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" to combat injustice. Men who decided that it was intolerable to accept abuses without standing up against them.

Men who dared.

Men who lost everything, in many cases up to and including their lives, that a nation might be born which would live for a thousand years in freedom and justice.

I think back to those bold men, whose deeds blazed across the sky. I think of how I can possibly live up to what they asked of themselves, to what they asked to those who might follow in their footsteps. To the dreams they held and battled the darkness for.

And I remember what I am.

I am an active duty soldier, who sees a duty to the country I love, the country birthed so many years ago to be a just and righteous nation, where each and every citizen would have the right to petition for redress of grievances, and to print whatever they pleased about their government. I see a duty to all those who have died for these ideals - everyone whose red blood was shed to give our flag its color, who dreamed that generation after generation, patriots would always stand ready to answer America's call.

What a low, shivering thing would I be, if I saw the truth, that America is wasting its soldiers, breaking its military, and destroying its economy, all in the name of the interests of a few, and I did not stand up! If I did not stand up for fear, or a wish to preserve my comfort. If I did not stand up for fear of reprisal, or imprisonment-how those Founding Fathers would be ashamed!

I would like to think that if they saw me here, now, along with the ranks of the rest of our active duty soldiers who are standing up against this injustice, they would be proud. Would be proud of the spirit that still stands strong in America. Why stand the rest of you silent? The war is already begun! Not just the war in Iraq, but the war here at home, to wake a complacent citizenry to action! The time for sitting at home and thinking hopeful thoughts is over! This July Fourth, and every day until the troops are home and treated like the country which has used the best and brightest in them owes, I swear to act!

Join with me. Join with us. We, the active duty IVAW members, and even those who are against the war but do not yet know they can be with us, are waiting.

Sergeant Selena Coppa
35S, USA

"In accordance with AR 360-1, the opinions expressed in this statement are those of the individual and do not reflect the official positions or policies of the Department of Defense, the United States Army, or the United States Government."