Monday, March 30, 2009

Only one race-the human race.

One of the things that I love about standing up and talking about what you believe in when you're not actually a politician is that you don't have to stick to outdated and outmoded concepts of what serious conversation needs to be.

Those of you who have been following for a while may remember the first letter I had published in the Army Times about the war. It spoke to the dehumanization of the enemy, another subject that was spoken to so eloquently at Winter Soldier. That it doesn't matter what culture people come from, or whether they're brown or white or purple with polka dots-they are still people, and they deserve to be treated like human beings. It's one of the strongest things I find offensive about the "liberation" idealogy that some have-it's the White Man's Burden all over again. That the poor, ignorant natives were just waiting for us to come along, with our culture, and since it's better for us, it must be better for them. Now don't get me wrong-I love the ideal of America. That's a little bit different than loving American culture, but hey, we'll go with it. But even that doesn't mean that automatically the Middle East needs to be like us in order to have human rights. It doesn't mean that it's our job to tell others what human rights are.

For some of you, I may be about to lose my serious take on the subject with the following clip-I realize I'm exposing my geekiness for all to see. But some of you out there may be aware that there was a television series called Battlestar Galactica, and it dealt with a lot of very real issues about war, and human rights, and survival, and what justified torture. This show was so meaningful that it, and the actors from it, was invited to the United Nations to have a panel there. And there Edward James Olmos, who plays the Admiral on Battlestar Galactica, had an intense and very real and inspiring speech that I think sums up how I feel about race, and how we think about it.

So say we all, Eddie. So say we all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sex Signals-The Army CAN train without powerpoint!

Anyone who's known me a long time has probably heard me complain about the Army's method of preventing sexual harassment and especially sexual assault. Usually, it's some dusty old powerpoint slides that points out for the ten thousandth time that assault is illegal and against Army Values. And everyone nods and smiles and then gets out of there and bitches for a solid half hour that it was a waste of an hour of their lives, and that they would never assault anyone, blah blah blah blah.

And every year, more and more assaults keep happening.

Some people feel I'm pretty hard on the Army-that I only point out the negatives these days, and not the positives. Sadly, that's because there aren't too many positives to report anymore. Like the joke that was presented goes, "How is the Army like a condom? They both give you a false sense of security while you're getting fucked."

But yesterday, the Army surprised me. I attended the new training "Sex Signals" with some other soldiers from my unit, and was absolutely blown away. Someone, somewhere, in the Army, gets it. These trainings have been ordered for all over. And not only are they not powerpoint, not only is it funny and awesome and so entertaining I didn't even realize it had taken two hours until I got out and looked at the clock, but it was actually useful.

Because they're starting to take on the hard questions, like, what assault really is, and what it really looks like in the Army? And that it's not just about whether the woman fought back or not, it's whether she actually consented to the sex. They made a brilliant point that I've been arguing for a while: if the culture is contributing to the problem, we need to change the culture.

It doesn't matter if someone says stop quietly or loudly or if they're laughing while they say it. It doesn't matter if they started things and then changed their mind, or they were naked. What matters is whether or not they said yes.

And let me put it out there from the woman's perspective: yes, it is incredibly, incredibly sexy if the guy you're having sex with for the first time checks to make sure that is where you want to be going. Checks to make sure that you are wanting what they're doing. I've been asked that a couple times, and each time, the guy involved has gotten about ten thousand awesome points.

So again. I give kudos to the Army for getting this training out there. I'm sure it's expensive. It has got to be expensive to have live training by actual actors as opposed to powerpoint slides that can be shown by anyone. But I think this training actually got people thinking, and may have actually made a difference. I know that if it's kept up for a while, it definitely will. And that makes me pretty damn happy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

At long last....

Well, folks, I've tried to be the last holdout in this milblog world, the one person who let anyone say whatever the hell they wanted to.

I have now moved to comment moderation. Some ofyou may believe that I'm trying to censor people's thoughts that are pro-war. I cheerfully invite Lilyea, TSO, CJ, Blackfive, and any other person who hates IVAW to talk here all they want to show it.

However, someone has decided to post my mother's full name, home address, and phone number, apparently in response to my calling out Steve Slauson, the post commander of the VFW post that has been harassing me. I'm not sure how posting a mailbox is the same thing as posting the physical address of a cancer survivor who has absolutely nothing to do with this, but that's just me. I didn't post his place of work-and I do know it.

The other thing that's pretty awesome is that there are a lot of people with my last name in New York. The only way for someone to know who exactly is my mother is to look at, say, my military records. Or my SGLI. Or any paperwork I've done concerning my mother.

Anyway. So comment moderation is now up. I'll still allow all the anonymous jerks, I promise. They'll just have to leave personal/identifying information off in the future.

What would be nice is seeing as much rallying in the milblog community over the hassle I'm getting as over the stuff the conservative bloggers get..but I know better than to expect that.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

VFW: Want to talk about disloyalty?

Well, we've found out why apparently CSM Beam got involved. Why? Because my own post commander, of the VFW, felt that it was more necessary to spend time hassling me than to take care of his own people.

From AKO...

4 Mar 2009 08:50 GMT
I am glad they are making mistakes.
I spent about 40 hours researching Coppa & her group.
I have found at least 5 things she can be charged with.
I turned over a packet almost 1 inch thick to the garrison command, Her old 1SGT, a Special Agent from M.I. here in Wiesbaden. I reported it to the USAEUR CSM Beam, A friend that works C.I. for the FBI, CSM Paul U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command Ft Belvoir, VA & Home land security.

The traitors in the IVAW disgust me.

Steve Slauson
Commander VFW Post 27
Wiesbaden, Germany

Hey dude! News flash. I've been pretty busy dealing with my shit, too busy to attend VFW meetings. However, I will now make it a point to attend the next one. In an IVAW T-shirt- I wouldn't want you to think that I didn't care. Also, thanks for spending 40 hours of your time investigating me. I'm sure that's not 40 hours that could have been spent actually taking care of soldiers. Contrary to your opinion, there are a LOT of IVAW members who are also VFW members. I'm sorry if that makes you sad, but it's true. Also, your commentary about how "I will never be one [VFW member] for the rest of my life" is pretty interesting. I think National VFW would be pretty interested to hear how you are attempting to speak for their membership requirements, none of which include having pro-war views.

By the way, if anyone wants to talk to Mr. Slouson about his views, here is his contact information. As he is not in the Army, no OPSEC is violated by posting this.


His phone number, as publicly available from the VFW Post 27 Website:

The New Army: No Guidance, Even When Requested.

For those who enjoy keeping up with the trials and tribulations of my constant struggle to be a productive IVAW member and also a good soldier, I thought I'd pass this on.

Every now and again, the subject of my IVAW membership has come up with leadership. Generally, when this has come up, I've asked said leadership if they have any specific problems, questions, or concerns, and provided material when requested. I don't have anything to hide-I'm probably currently the most public active duty IVAW member short of Casey Porter. They in turn have come up with their own questions, thoughts, commentary, concerns, and orders. For example, when I took part at the DNC/RNC this past year, I was under orders from my SFC NCOIC/PSG "not to get myself arrested for hugging some trees or something." Even interpreted as a more blanket order not to get arrested while on leave, it was still specific guidance as to how I could balance my responsibilities.

I have currently, to date, asked my squad leader, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, sergeant major, and commander for guidance. My squad leader, probably the most reasonable individual in my leadership, has health and safety concerns. I'm not supposed to go anywhere where someone who's been making threats against me might be looking to hurt me. This is completely reasonable, and I have no issues with it. My platoon sergeant has offered broad generalities, no orders, no real guidance, but has simply said that if I stop talking on my blog, I might get less threats. My first sergeant has said that he has no real concerns, I'm entitled to my beliefs, but the commander has some concerns over regulations. The sergeant major has said my life would be much easier if I leave the policies to the lawmakers and just do what I'm told without thinking about the big picture.

My commander, when asked for specific guidance, says that he doesn't think it would be appropriate to tell me what his concerns are. He says that he has some, and may press for punishment on them, but he won't tell me what they are. He will not tell me what he thinks is wrong for me to do so that I can avoid doing it again, and refuses to tell me what he would like from me.

Which is just great-apparently, counseling is OK and useful for all soldiers...except ones that apparently tick off major and influential figures. Or is it that these individuals are simply too into CYA to risk putting their thoughts and opinions about my actions in writing?

Is the Army Breaking Its Wounded Warriors?

A lot has been said by the Army in regards to WTUs, or Warrior Transition Units. These units are said to be the Army's new and more compassionate answer to its wounded warriors, where soldiers can get better medical treatment, and are enabled and encouraged to make all medical appointments.

What's left implied and unsaid is how often regular units do not let soldiers make their medical appointments, encouraging wounded soldiers to simply "suck it up and drive on". If the Army overall treated its wounded soldiers well, there would be almost no need for WTUs. But perhaps we shouldn't strive for the moon-we shouldn't ask that every Army unit treat their wounded soldiers with the standard of care they are entitled to. Instead, we will examine the WTU system.

The Warrior Transition Units at Fort Bragg are under investigation for punishing these wounded soldiers too often and too unfairly. But are they the only ones? First, let's take a look at what these soldiers had to say about care at Bragg.

SSG Jason Jonas, diagnosed with a sleeping disorder who has been demoted due to oversleeping formation: "In my 10 years of service I have often seen soldiers mistreated, abused or left hanging, but never have I seen an entire unit collectively mentally and physically break down its members"

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker."It creates a hostile environment where soldiers buckle and take a low-balled disability rating and benefits just to get out when they can"

Sgt. Sheree Snow, evac'd with tumours, a hysterectomy, and sleeping issues, and who was also articled for missing morning formation after medication problems: "The leadership isn't trained to work with wounded soldiers...I feel that the unit holds us to such high standards because they do not know better."

However, these aren't the only cases of problems and incidents. Fort Hood WTU soldiers report other cases of individuals who have lost rank for missing morning formation while on heavy sleeping medications. Cancer patients report being disciplined for taking "too much" legitimately prescribed pain medication. PTSD patients report receiving punishments for missing appointments that they couldn't remember existed.

Germany WTU soldiers talk of (and I have witnessed some of) multiple separate incidents where soldiers have received Article 15s for incidents that occurred in different units, previous to their WTU assignment. Someone's first impression might be that these are simply disciplinary incidents that started in the unit in which they occurred, and followed soldiers to the WTU. However, since soldiers are unable to transition to the WTU while they are pending UCMJ, the real answer is that upon getting to the WTU, the command must have made the decision to punish soldiers for incidents that their previous commands made the on-the-ground decision not to punish them for. There are also soldiers who note that they have been disciplined for substance-related issues after self-referring to ASAP (which is not supposed to happen). Sexual assault victims report being disciplined after making sexual harassment complaints.

It has been suggested to me that I stop. It has been suggested that I shut up and just make things easier for myself. That if I wasn't complaining, weren't talking about all the things that were going wrong in the Army, I wouldn't have so many problems. Things wouldn't be hard for me. ve been told that the way to stop my getting threats, the way to stop the hassle I'm getting from someone in my command, is just to be quiet.

But I'm not going to stop. Because I know this is what they want. I know they want me not to expose what's going wrong. They want me to pretend everything is okay.

My commander says if I live the Army values, I won't have any trouble. I don't know if even he believes it, but that's what he says. Well, I'm going to do it, whether he likes it or not.
He asks me why I say the Army values the way I do. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. Selfless Service. Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Why don't I say it the way everyone else does...the tired way, the repeating by rote, LDRSHIP. He doesn't seem to understand that these things mean things to me. I don't have to work to remember them. They're important to me. Living by them is what has gotten me into the trouble that I've had. Living by them isn't going to make my life any easier, or less full of Army trouble.
But they're what I am. They're what I do. They're what I feel. They're inside me, no matter what anyone else thinks about it.

And they're not going away.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Greeting to my Distinguished Visitors

First, allow me to carry out a fine Army tradition of greeting my distinguished guests, the commanding general and command sergeant major of USAREUR. General Ham, Command Sergeant Major Beam, I am touched and honored that you have taken it upon yourselves to read my humble blog. I certainly never anticipated when I first began it that a four-star general would trouble himself with the thoughts of a buck sergeant. Command Sergeant Major Beam, the fact that you were moved enough by my thoughts and stories to pass them on to my own sergeant major means more than I can say. It has been made my understanding that your own thoughts differ from my own on the question of the Iraq War, and that you wish that my thoughts and actions were different. I would be very interested in speaking further with you on this subject. I've already had an intense and enlightening conversation with my own sergeant major, and I look forward to utilizing your own open door policy to have a similar conversation with you. I will of course be requesting this through the usual military channels, but it appears that you and others on General Ham's staff may read my blog frequently enough that this may reach you before that. Or at least, that's what my own NCO support channel has informed me. I am told you are also interested in my soldier's and veteran's organization, the 501c3 Iraq Veterans Against the War, or IVAW. I will be happy to explain more about this group and the many wonderful things it does to help soldiers when we have the opportunity to talk in more detail.

Hopefully we can all gain a better understanding of each other. I look forward to the experience.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yes, Virginia, It Is Legal For Me To Be A Board Member

While I won't be officially seated until Wednesday, I've been engaging in arguments with friends and other military members about it, have been confronted by my command about it, and feel I may as well put out a kind of miniature FAQ about the subject. If anyone has any more substantive questions, email or comment and I'll be happy to add them to this.

Q: What are you talking about? What won't happen until Wednesday?

A: Well, as of Wednesday, I will be the newest member of IVAW's Board of Directors. As a runner-up in the last election, when a resignation came up I was tasked, and here we are.

Q: OMG! Are you the first active duty member of the IVAW BoD? Are you the only one?

While I won't be the first active duty member of the Board of Directors, I will be the first active duty member of the Board of Directors who isn't outprocessing at the time. However, while I currently am the only active duty member on the Board, I will not be for long, as another Board member has decided to return to active duty to assist the new administration in creating hope and change for the military.

Q: Isn't this illegal? I thought I saw somewhere that active duty members weren't allowed to hold office in political clubs.
A: Not at all! Active duty members are prohibited from doing a lot of things for partisan political organizations thanks to our new 1344.10 update. However, IVAW does not fall into the DoD's definition of partisan, and therefore, I am fully entitled to perform both my duties to the military and my duties as a Director of the Board for IVAW.

Q: What about Greer v. Spock? Don't you pay any attention to legal precedent?
A: Only a new warrant officer would ask that, you betrayer of the NCO Corps. (I'm hoping that one year you get to clear up personal relationships also gives me the right to disrespect you until you decide whether or not to cut me off as well) You should clearly read a little bit more thoroughly. Greer v Spock does not apply for the following reasons:
1) It had to do with partisan candidates
2) It had to do with civilians. A commander can bar his base to civilians, he cannot bar it to military personnel.
3) It had nothing to do with nonprofit office.

Q: Does this mean you'll be responsible for every action of IVAW? Does this mean we can blame you for everything that goes on in the organization?
A: Wait, don't you do that anyway?

Q: What does your command think about this?
A: Right now, I imagine they're frantically trying to figure out if they can move me to another unit to pass the buck to someone else. However, I'll accept that they may well surprise me.

Q: Does this mean everything you say on this blog is the official position of the IVAW Board of Directors?

A: No. Directors have many different opinions on many different subjects. This blog does not speak for them, but only for myself. If an official position comes out, you'll see it in policy, not on my blog.