Is the National Guard back to being 2nd rate soldiers again?

Prior to 9/11 the National Guard was looked down upon by Active Duty forces. Since I served half my career in both both services I can tell you some of that was earned and some was just ignorance by active duty forces. When I was active duty we never took the National Guard (or as we sometimes called them “Nasty Guard, “No-Gos”, or “Nasty Girls” ) seriously. They never trained as hard as us, had as good equipment as us, or were as disciplined and professional soldiers as us.

However that was while I was active and I only had limited visibility of the National Guard and well, that visibility was not always good. Once I came into the National Guard I found there were many professional and technically expert soldiers who called the National Guard home. I have served with some awesome and highly motivated soldiers in the National Guard and I have also seen some pieces of crap (both soldiers and leaders). However I had also sen plenty of bad soldiers when I was active duty too.

After 9/11 the game changed, the “weekend warrior” was dead once our op-tempo kicked into high gear overseas while we also took on many new unforseen homeland security responsibilities. In 2003 my company deployed to NYC 3 times with two times having less than 12 hours notice. Think about that for a second. One day my soldiers left their campuses, cubicles, work-places, etc. thinking they were going home for the night and would be back the next day only to get a phone call telling them to bring any gear they had from home and report to the armory. I remember being on a bus to NYC handing my cell phone to soldiers so they could tell their bosses they would not be in to work and were not sure when they would be back. In addition to those homeland deployments, we also went to Germany for 3 weeks to help train up an active duty Brigade for an Iraq deployment and we were alerted 4-5 times ourselves for deployment. The last alert in November of 2003 finally came to fruition and most of the company deployed in January 2004. (more…)

August was deadliest month, and Sept doesn’t look any better

The other day a story hit the wire about August being the deadliest month in Afghanistan since we went in there in October 2001.

August has become the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, where international forces have started to go home and let Afghan forces take charge of securing their country.

A record 66 U.S. troops have died so far this month, eclipsing the 65 killed in July 2010, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

This month’s death toll soared when 30 Americans – most of them elite Navy SEALs – were killed in a helicopter crash Aug. 6. They were aboard a Chinook shot down as it was flying in to help Army Rangers who had come under fire in Wardak province. It was the single deadliest incident of war being waged by Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces and insurgents.

Read more at

http://www.military.com/news/article/august-is-deadliest-month-for-us-in-afghanistan.html

 

(more…)

9/11, Ten Years Later

This is a slightly edited post from one I wrote five years ago titled “9/11 Five Years Later”.

Five Ten years and one day ago was September 10th, 2001 and I had just flown in to Boston-Logan Airport that day to begin another week with my client. I was an independent contractor at the time and was working on a large project for Sun Microsystems, Workscsape Inc, and General Motors. The week of 9/10/01 was a week of system load testing and performance testing. So I flew in during the morning and went to the client site. This type of work had to be done at night when users were not on the system, so during the day I got settled in, answered emails, and re-checked the testing systems and monitoring systems for the evening’s test. The testing started at 6:00 PM and went until about 4:00 AM on 9/11/01. After the testing was over I went to my hotel and fell fast asleep. Prior to going to bed, I shut off the ringer on my cell and set the alarm for noon to I could get up, get ready and back into the office for the next night’s testing.

I know it was very tough for people to watch the events on the morning of 9/11 to unfold before them and it essentially numbed our nation. However I think the way I found out was very tough, if not tougher. I woke up with my alarm and immediately noticed that my voicemail light on the phone was blinking. I remember thinking I was glad I turned that ringer off. I opened my phone to see multiple missed calls from my wife, brother and parents. I also saw a few text messages that told me to call home ASAP. My heart dropped as the first thought was something happened to one of my parents. I called my wife who told me to turn on the TV. As I did, she was rattling off what had happened with planes into both towers, both towers are down, one plane into the Pentagon, one plan crashed near Pittsburgh (where my brother and his family lives), the country under attack, planes being grounded, etc., etc., etc. This is where I experienced what I call information overload. My mind honestly could not handle what I was hearing from my wife and seeing on the TV. She was telling me the towers were down, but my mind was seeing pre-recorded images of the towers standing and burning and I was arguing with her telling her “they are not, I can still see them standing”. My mind could not comprehend what I was seeing. It was a very emotional and confusing moment. After I hung I up from her, sitting on the end of the bed in my hotel room, I wept… just plainly wept. Crying for my country, and my fellow Americans. As I drove into the office, I was on the phone with my National Guard unit trying to make contact with someone and angrily asking what I could do and when we were being called up. The next day I was flying about 90 mph down the I-90 back to Buffalo….

 

The difference between five years after and ten years after is that five years after when I originally wrote the above post, I was in Afghanistan, at war. I was there as part of the retaliation for those attacks. Now that it is ten years after, I am a contractor working for the Army supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So as I look back at both milestones ( five and ten years after) and think about all the time in between, it hits me how much my life has changed since 9/11/01. My life is completely different today than it ever would have been had those attacks not ever happened. Not only my life but pretty much everyone in the military today or that has been in the military anytime in the last 8-10 years.

I wonder how many friend’s, past soldier’s, comrade’s lives would be different by just still being here and not buried six feet deep. How many people I know who have been wounded in combat, that would still have all their parts, pieces and wits?

So as I look back ten years it is not just reflecting on the sad day ten years ago, it is trying to imagine what my life would be like without the friends I have developed as a result of my deployment, my work today and especially my blogging. My blogging friends, whom are all milbloggers, are a major part of my life and some of my closest friends I have ever had. It is almost like after having a wife and kids for several years, and then trying to imagine what life would be like today without them and trying to imagine what life was like before them.

In looking back I have a hard time remembering what the Army was like before 9/11; before the war-footing we took on starting in October 2001. I also cannot imagine what my life would be like today without those events shaping the last ten years.

Ten years ago today, at this exact moment, I could not begin to imagine where I would be today. So as you can imagine, I really can’t even guess where I will be ten years from now.

I hope and pray that the pain and anguish which family and friends of those lost ten years ago experienced, has been dulled. However I wish and pray that the patriotism America experienced ten years ago would come back and be felt again.

 

The moment our lives changed forever

At the exact moment this post goes up marks the minute ten years ago that all of our lives changed forever, mine especially. Who knows where I or my family would be today. The path of our lives was changed dramatically at 8:46 AM on 9/11/01.

May God Bless the souls of all those lost in NYC, Washington DC, Shanksville, PA and around the world in retaliation for the horrific attacks.

Not enough room in NYC?

This post is a follow up to one I wrote the other day on Military Pundits Blog (http://militarypundits.com/2011/09/is-bloomberg-an-atheist/). Besides the controversy over Bloomberg not allowing clergy at today’s ceremony at Ground Zero, another big controversy is that not all the first responders that rushed to the air of those trapped in the building and then rushed to the “pile” to look for survivors. 

The excuse given is that there is not enough room foe everyone. Which I find completely asinine. How could a city that hosts over 1 million people to watch a crystal ball drop at midnight not handle the men and women who were willing to risk their lives? I am sure the first responders realize not everyone can be right around the memorial, but would be willing to just be there, even if it meant in the streets around the memorial. This is the city that never sleeps, and is one of the largest most recognized and visited cities in the world, 

I just can’t conceive how this is the excuse. These people are heroes, not on a foreign battlefield but on our homeland, in our country, amongst our citizens. These responders didn’t do it for money or to be famous. They did it because they cared and it was the job they wanted to do. Many of these first responders lost friends and family in the attacks. People they cared for and loved. 

To be honest I am not sure which is worse, not allowing clergy or not allowing these first responders. Both are crimes against the people of our country in my opinion and damn Bloomberg for doing this. I can’t believe one pompous ass like him can make these decisions and get away with it. 

Remembering 9/11

There are a series of blog posts that are being put up every day from 9/1 – 9/11 of this year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our country. This series is up at www.youserved.com and will have a new post go up every morning at 0911 EST every day through the 11th. The quickest way to find them, watch the news clips from that time ten years ago is to check out:

http://www.vamortgagecenter.com/blog/?s=Remembering+9%2F11.

Go back, watch the clips and remind yourself why we live in the world we do today. Never Forget…

GERONIMO, E.K.I.A

Thanks to my good friend Matt Gallagher (http://kaboombook.com/) I have stumbled across what appears to be the most detailed and accurate account of the planning and execution of the raid that killed the most sought after terrorist in the world. 

The story on the New Yorker website by Nicholas Schmidle is extremely details and seems to corroborate a lot of the other info that came out about the raid. I starts with initial planning a while back and goes through to the details of dumping his body into the ocean, and the meeting between the President and the men who carried out the raid. 

I have to assume it is accurate for now, and if it is, it is an awesome story.

 
A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.)

Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”

Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”

 

I encourage you to read more at

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle

 

Book Review: The Only Thing Worth Dying For

When I was contacted by the publisher asking me if I would be interested in a copy of this new book that has come out titled The Only Thing Worth Dying For, I knew from the title alone that it was probably going to be good. Once I checked out the website at http://www.onlythingworthdyingfor.com/ I was convinced it was a book I HAD to read.

I have been struggling with how to write this review as I want to be able to highlight key parts of this book but don’t want to give it all away. I have edited this many times so I hope this review gives the book justice.

Eric Blehm (who was interviewed on You Served Radio Feb 11th, http://www.blogtalkradio.com:80/youserved/2010/02/12/episode-75) did a great job writing the story of ODA574 and how this single 11-man Special Forces A-team did the true Special Forces job of partnering with local opposition to overthrow an oppressive regime and help that opposition train to get ready to fight against the regime. In this case the oppressive regime was the Taliban, and the opposition was a little-known influential leader in the area named Hamid Karzai. Even though there were already SF teams and CIA in northern Afghanistan teamed up with the Northern Alliance, the Northern Alliance was a loosely disciplined and defined fighting force. In the south, it was Hamid Karzai with maybe a dozen loyal supporters.

Eric does a fabulous job of not inserting his opinion or viewpoints into any part of this book. Instead he simply tells the story of them men that were part of this critical mission. Actually to call it critical is an understatement. Had this team not partnered with Karzai, or had any number of things happened which could have caused this mission to fail, it is without a doubt that Afghanistan would not be where it is today. Yes, this 11-man team wrote history and has had a direct influence into where we are today in the Global War on Terror.

Kandahar was the last city to fall in Afghanistan, and was considered the headquarters of the Taliban in 2001. When that city surrendered the initial “liberation” stage of the war in Afghanistan was considered complete. The actions of this team, and many others that supported them caused that to happen. In addition to helping bring down Kandahar, they also protected Hamid Karzai at all costs because they recognized his importance to the success of Afghanistan.

Unlike many other books I have read which tend to name and highlight people that do good things but hide the identity of people that screw up, Eric does not do that. Because he is truly just telling the story of these men, he calls out and tells the story of even those that made mistakes…even mistakes that costs American lives. The book is an easy read and does not cause the reader to have a Google page opened up to define military jargon. As my buddy CJ says, it does not go into the technical weeds that will cause the non-Special Forces reader to get lost.

The book starts with a prologue of Eric finally getting a chance to meet with Hamid Karzai in a NYC hotel room. Eric was given 15 minutes between meetings of (then) VP candidate Sarah Palin and (then) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. That 15 minute meeting dragged on for over an hour as Karzai recited many facts from memory about the men on that team and looked at photos that Eric brought with him. Secretary Rice was made to wait, but I am sure she would understand if she knew why.

As per Eric’s website, I want to highlight the following paragraph

From the author of the award-winning The Last Season comes a one-of-a-kind war story that redefines our understanding of America’s early days in Afghanistan. THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FORreveals, for the first time, the astonishing true story of the Special Forces A-team that helped conquer the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, and bring Hamid Karzai to power. In powerfully simple prose, Eric Blehm weaves together the unbelievable chain of events that intimately expose the realities of modern unconventional warfare and international politics during the critical months after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Following Captain Jason Amerine and his ten Green Berets, Blehm puts the reader on the ground alongside Hamid Karzai and his guerrillas as the men of two very different worlds unite to seek a reckoning for the horrors haunting both of their nations…

The video below is Eric himself telling a good overview of the story and them men he wrote about. It is worth the watch.

The story actually starts with ODA574 training in K-stan with local forces there on 9/11/01 and how they agonized with being stuck overseas while their country is under attack. Eventually they get back to the US and thru all the right things happening at the right time, they become the team selected to insert into Pakistan for a mission that would take them and Karzai into Afghanistan to start what was supposed to be several months of local fighter training for an eventual clearing of Taliban forces in Southern Afghanistan. However, as we always say in the military, the best plans in the world get thrown out the window once you hit the ground. That is no different for these true warriors. Murphy’s Law was present, but they adapted and overcame and rather than a couple of months of train-up, they had literally days before they were thrown into the fight.

The courage and bravery of not only the 11-man A-team, but also the courage and guts of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) rescue pilots is demonstrated in this book. These guys flew the first daytime missions into Afghanistan, over populated areas and some of the crew had only been in the area for a few hours. Sadly the incompetence and fear of the Marine Commander at Camp Rhino is also portrayed and I am sure it will make you as mad as it made me. Especially seeing who that Marine General was and what he eventually became to be. I can also say (as I had blogged on here before) that this book changed my mind about Hamid Karzai. I have said some very non-so-nice things about Karzai on this blog many times, but after reading this book I have to be honest when I say that I have a lot more respect for Karzai now than I ever did before. Not to say Karzai is perfect, but at least I know how he used to be and where his roots are in the Global War on Terror.

The whole story is told in this book, from the impact of 9/11/01 on these guys and our military, to the planning process and decision making, to the decisions entrusted to a Captain (Now-Major Jason Amerine will be interviewed on You Served Radio on Feb 18th, 2010 at http://www.blogtalkradio.com:80/youserved/2010/02/19/episode-20) and 10 of his men to how things tend to get screwed up when higher command go against their own doctrine and micro-manage competent professionals.

There is no doubt that as the years pass, more and more “history” books will be written about the war in Afghanistan. But you don’t have to wait long to find out how our forces inserted cold into the southern part of the country, with no support network, cut off from the rest of the world while deep behind enemy lines. How they ensured that the person who would eventually be selected to lead Afghanistan (three times) stayed alive and how all of them were either wounded or killed doing it. But for those that died, they knew it was THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR.