Friday, August 29, 2008

Operation First Casualty

Alright. It's been three days since I last posted, which normally wouldn't be that big a deal, but I regret it now, because so much has happened in those three days that I'm going to have to separate the posts.

I'll start with Operation First Casualty. As most readers of this blog know, as someone on active duty, I try to steer clear of using the uniform in IVAW events unless I think the line is really fuzzy, such as training or such. I'm told that street theatre actually is permissable, and that there is a Supreme Court case about it, but I haven't seen it yet, and so I was not one of the squad members. However, I have to say that as police liason and announcer, I did equally as much, if not more, running around, with the amount of police on the streets of Denver. I will also note that there is no rule or reg against doing that, any more, as my friend Sholom says, than there is a reg against standing around while on leave in civilian clothes shouting "That is my buddy Joe! He is drinking coffee right now!"

As a guide for others wishing to do similar actions, I will note that we coordinated with the police in advance and took actions to minimize disruptions to the streets, cooperating when they made requests of us. I'd like to thank Lieutenant Vince Porter of the Denver PD at this time, who was their liason with Iraq Veterans Against the War for Wednesday. Hopefully none of you will be jerks about it, but the good lieutenant was amazing. A Marine veteran, he had respect for our service and professionalism, and helped us negotiate with other police when possible. It was utterly necessary, as there were so many individual squads of police officers that without his previous communication, would probably have been quite concerned. At the end of the day, we shook hands with each group happy, and some police even pulled out their personal cameras to take pictures with the vets. I also felt honored by their trust-I know that had they felt we were "violent protesters" they would not have allowed us to get as physically close as many of them did, and several of the officers were laughing and joking with us along the route. Apparently the Denver Police Department is highly veteran-friendly and there are many veterans, especially Iraq veterans in their ranks.

As police liason, I was far enough ahead of the OFC squads that I was able to get a very good visual of the events, and I wish I had taken my camera. I'm disappointed to announce that just like every other IVAW event to date, I've been so busy that I haven't been able to take pictures. But the visuals were stunning, as you can see by the videos others took.

Rather than just engaging with the pre-identified supporters/civilians, they also kept situational awareness of potential high-risk environment (multi-story parking garage, open windows high up, etc). Realism was also kept in regards to internal dialogue. Having multiple squads also allowed them to cover each side of a street-a street, I must say, that they never stepped into except to cross. The only disruption to traffic were the occasional police cars who parked by us. In high-traffic areas, a few officers also even helped us out by directing traffic to stop so that our people could cross safely. They also helped us clear out a section in front of the convention center so that we wouldn't disrupt the vendors and could still have a good space to handle the civilian crowd. We got a fairly good response from passer-by as well.
, including, among others, Kucinich.

It ended well in front of the veterans' memorial, where we held a press conference and then proceeded to fall out onto the grass for chow. Once again, logistics were excellent, and the food was delicious. Also, water was always plentiful and in good resupply-we had no fallouts, despite the hot sun. The only injury, in fact, was me-I had dressed professionally in order to deal with the police, and had underestimated the amount of running I would need to be doing. I was duly (and justly) mocked by my fellow vets for the choice of high heels when the extent of my blistering became known. However, one of our medics (by former military profession and volunteering with the aid bag for the day) soon set me right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver PD Supports Military By Committing to Arrest 2LTs With Maps

That's right, many other committed veterans and IVAW members, I am now on the ground in the rough area of the DNC. I am officially on leave, and am doing my best to fulfill my NCOIC's direct order not to get arrested. However, it looks like that's going to be a little harder than I thought. While I can't help but agree that second lieutenants with maps are the most dangerous things out there, the Denver PD's decision that anyone with maps could be a dangerous and violent protester has me scratching my head a little bit.

Among the other things that police are being told to watch out for are:

Handheld FRS radios-frequently, of all things, used for communications!
Maps-used to plan.
Bicycles. They can apparently be used to blockade sidewalks

Chemicals-no description of type or quantity.

Camping information.

Keep it up, Denver PD! I'm sure in a city the size of Denver, there's no actual crime out there. Better keep arresting people for having bricks laying around in their yard. It's not like the jails are full enough, after all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

...but no love from NY.

Background story:

My car's been parked in New York while I've been overseas. Former governor Pataki signed an executive order directing the DMV to make nice with military and vehicle registrations and the like. The DMV, rather than sort out the differences between active duty military and activated reservists, gave benefits to all military personnel who are not permanently stationed in New York. You don't have to get your car re-inspected in New York, or re-registered until you return permanently or PCS to NY, and then you have 60 days afterwards to do it.

This means I should not have gotten tickets.

I just got a box of mail, however, and in it we have the following tickets:

6/9/08-Registration sticker expired-$65 N. Snyder
6/9/08-Insurance sticker expired- $65 N. Snyder
8/13/08- Registration sticker expired-$65 S. Sinnathamby
8/13/08- Insurance sticker expired-$65 S.Sinnathamby
3/27/08-Registration sticker expired-$65 M.Ahammed
3/27/08-Insurance sticker expired-$65 M. Ahammed
4/04/08-Registration sticker expired-$65 A. Syed
4/04/08-Ins sticker expired-$65 A Syed
4/03/08-Insurance sticker expired-$65 S. Squires
4/03/08-Registration sticker expired-$65 S. Squires
6/02/08-Ins. sticker expired-$65 N. Snyder
6/02/08-Reg. sticker expired-$65 N. Snyder
4/05/08-Reg sticker expired-$65 N. Reid

The state of New York apparently thinks I owe them $845 dollars. That's because the state of New York (and all the enforcers who've been walking by and ignoring the gigantic signs my mother made saying "my daughter is overseas and this car hasn't moved for months) are apparently smoking crack.

Sons of whores.

This is the hard thing. Yeah, you get a lot of perk benefits in the military, but try convincing people of them. For those of you who say "why not just get the car re-registered", the New York DMV refuses to acknowledge military addresses (APO AE) as valid. I called and asked. They said it's not a real address. After incoherent shouting, I decided it was not good for my blood pressure to continue the discussion.

However, since I'm not planning on driving here, I think I'll just hold my German and international driver's licenses close until I can get all this sorted out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Military Flights, and how I Love Them. No, Really.

I really like to provide these bursts of positivity every now and again, if only to counter those of our critics who say we are relentlessly negative. There are a lot of things I enjoy about the United States Army. Sure, a lot of them have started disappearing since the war, but there are some great points.

After taking a C-17 in to start my joyous and wonderful leave (cue celebrations: I am, however, not likely coming to DC, so no beers for anyone) I was motivated to post just how much it f-ing rocked. So here goes.

First let me thank all the excellent airmen who operated the flight. I'd name them, but with my luck some of the nutballs out there will start harassing them because they didn't shoot me on sight. They put us up and put us down far easier than any commercial flight ever has, and shaved about three hours off the time a commercial flight would have taken as well.

I know that most people may not think that sitting with the cargo is awesome, but I think that's because most people haven't done it. It is always such a relief to get on a plane where you actually have leg room, and most importantly of all-once the plane is at cruise altitude, you can actually get up and stay up. Commercial flights are packed so tight there's no room even if you wanted to stay up, but if you do hang around by the stewardess area, it's highly discouraged anyway. Military flights? Plenty of room to sack out, and they really don't care if you do. In fact, it's expected. Everyone, including myself, had something prepared to rack out with, and one smart cookie scored the top of a packing crate in advance by placing his gear there. Not that I was uncomfortable-like the rest, I got down on the floor and curled up and straight slept for several hours. Yes, it's loud, yes, it's cold, but somehow, the whole setting combined to make me feel perfect. I have trouble sleeping, often, especially if strangers are around. But there's something different about being around fellow military, most just back from being deployed, at least half in uniform. I can't sleep well with one stranger in the room, but give me forty soldiers and I sleep like a log. I think it's because I trust my fellow soldiers like I never would trust civilians, and that with so many of them around, nothing really bad could ever happen.

Upon getting to my destination, though, I was confronted by what one woman referred to as "the homeless shelter" and another "tent city". Apparently there have been problems getting flights out to Ramstein for all these dependents with kids. I think because they're such large families in general, and also the school year is ending, so it's prime crowd time. However-another shocker to those of you expecting me to lay blame-it's no one's fault, and the folks at this base are doing the best they can to accomodate them. The women and kids are holding up like champs, too, and their cooperation and coordination are both refreshing and heartening. Immediately upon arrival, they offered all of their expertise to anyone who might be staying, God bless them! No one could blame them if they were sour, but they've been fairly cheerful, acknowledging that MAC flights are a risk and they knew what they were getting into. Just like I had to wait a bit myself to hit my flight, but once I caught it, you can' beat either the comfort or the price.

Anyway, I'm here, the flight was great, life is and continues to be golden, and leave is fabulous.

Hope you all are having as decent a day as I am. Several of you, I owe beers, and you know where to collect!


Has it really been nearly a month since my last post? That's just shameful. Or it would be, rather, if I hadn't been busy up to my ears.

My posting over here has managed to accomplish one thing-slowing me down a touch. I can't attend /every/ stop on the base tour, just two of them. However, when I felt twinges of guilt or longing to be there helping out, I had Kris Goldsmith's dispatches to remind me that it's not all roses on the GI Outreach rail. (Scratched corneas and fire ants, oh my!)

I did have our own GI Outreach events here as well, though. No GI Rights or VA benefits workshop, but we did have an IVAW barbecue in front of my house, on post. The IVAW label came off when the beer pong came out, but still, a good time was had by all. Also a good hangover. I was effectively useless the next day, but it was definitely worth it.

Casey Porter has another film up from Iraq, he's titled it Deconstructed, and I expect to see a new film from him any day now.

I guess the cat is now out of the bag against the Rage against the Machine concert in Denver for us. For those of you who are non-veteran and non-military, I hear there will be some sort of lottery going on.

I myself am officially on leave, and come prepared with this warning from my higher-ups (or at least one) "Don't get arrested". This individual is to be commended. They know where I'm going, what I'm going to do, and even though they think I'm sticking my neck way further out than it needs to be stuck, they just want me to mitigate damgage. I told them not to worry, though-I have no plans to be arrested. I do everything the legal way-and the fact that there is so much legal wiggle room is a testament to the framers of our Constitution and the men and women who have sacrificed to protect it since.

I've taken on even more IVAW responsibility. Along those lines, though on a casual note, any milbloggers in the Denver area or travelling around there who would like to cover the OFC action or other IVAW points, please let me know. Fellow IVAW members with blogs...hopefully I'll "See you there".

Internet access will be somewhat sketchy, but my 215 number will still work.

AS out.