Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Signs



Here is one of the first signs that someone's career in the Army may be drawing to some kind of conclusion. His name is Glider and he was born March 5. He is an Australian shepherd pup and currently resides in Polk County, FL. We expect him to drop by The One Percenters HQ around May 1.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wall Street Journal: A General's Personal Battle

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN

Fort Carson, Colo.

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is on the frontlines of the Army's struggle to stop its soldiers from killing themselves. Through a series of novel experiments, the 32-year military veteran has turned his sprawling base here into a suicide-prevention laboratory.
[Suicide] Photo illustration by John Kuczala

One reason: Fort Carson has seen nine suicides in the past 15 months. Another: Six years ago, a 21-year-old ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky killed himself in the apartment he shared with his brother and sister. He was Kevin Graham, Gen. Graham's youngest son.

After Kevin's suicide in 2003, Gen. Graham says he showed few outward signs of mourning and refused all invitations to speak about the death. It was a familiar response within a military still uncomfortable discussing suicide and its repercussions. It wasn't until another tragedy struck the family that Gen. Graham decided to tackle the issue head on.

"I will blame myself for the rest of my life for not doing more to help my son," Gen. Graham says quietly, sitting in his living room at Fort Carson, an array of family photographs on a table in front of him. "It never goes away."

Suicide is emerging as the military's newest conflict. For 2008, the Pentagon has confirmed that 140 soldiers killed themselves, the highest number in decades.

At a Senate hearing last week, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, told lawmakers that 48 soldiers have already committed suicide in 2009. The figure puts the Army on pace for nearly double last year's figure. "I, and the other senior leaders of our Army, readily acknowledge that these current figures are unacceptable," Gen. Chiarelli said at the hearing.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

LAR remains expeditionary throughout deployment

One of the members of our Military Support Network has a son who is still in Iraq. His name is John Heald and he is quoted in the story below. Both of his grandfather's have died while he was on deployment.

3/25/2009
By Sgt. Dean Davis,Unit Regimental Combat Team 8

NINEWA PROVINCE, Iraq — Since the Marine Corps is known for its expeditionary prowess, maybe one of the best examples of this trait can be found in Iraq’s Ninewa province. Patrolling the terrain of northern Iraq, the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, have spent the bulk of their deployment staying true to this expeditionary mindset by remaining ‘outside the wire’ to interdict smuggling.

“The work these Marines do is tough and they do a phenomenal job every time,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Lepper, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon. “The highlight of this deployment has been seeing the Marines out in the field for 75 days at a time with no complaints and happy to do the job they are assigned. I couldn’t ask for a better platoon of Marines.”

Occasionally the platoon returns to Sahl Sinjar Airfield, a remote airstrip here, but ask 1st Lt. John W. Heald, commander of 3rd Platoon, and he will tell you, that like the rest of the Marines in his platoon, he would rather be out operating in the desert and villages.

“It has been rough at times, but this platoon is very tight, which improves any situation,” said Heald. “Being out for this long and living out of the vehicles like this forced us to adapt.”

The rest of the story can be found here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Busy, busy, busy



My associate, Maria, and I have been on the road a lot this week working with the Florida Legislature to - we are hopeful - pass a bill establishing a St. Johns River license tag. Florida has more than 100 of these specialty tags and this one will help the St. Johns River Alliance, a 13-county coalition, to pursue its river research and restoration goals.

With all the road trips to Tallahassee (six hours round trip), there hasn't been much time to post.

News from Ft. Bragg

The news still remains positive. Paperwork is being circulated but no orders cut for establishing an ETS date (expiration of term of service) for SGT Mark. With all the talk of the 82nd Airborne being the backbone of the upcoming operations in Afghanistan, we, the parental units, are hoping this is resolved soon.

Get it right media

Both NBC and PBS referred to the soldiers heading over to Afghanistan as "trainers."
I'm sorry, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne are not trainers. They are infantry. Their new mission may be training but they are not trainers. It's a subtle distinction but an important one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Visiting the USS Yorktown







Photos by Mark. M. M.
3.22.09

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A soldier's day off







SGT Mark is visiting a friend in Charleston, S.C.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This sounds familiar

From the Fayetteville Observer:

Obama to unveil new war strategy next week

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States will change the way its forces are arrayed in Afghanistan as part of an overhaul of U.S. strategy in the flagging war, a senior defense official said Friday.

President Obama is expected to unveil a revamped plan for fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan next week. The official , who spoke on condition of anonymity because the review is not complete, said it would call for new garrisons in far-flung Afghan communities.

That would help the U.S. hold ground against a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency, the official said. Under today’s hub-and-spoke system, U.S. forces leave protected bases to conduct anti-insurgent operations. When they leave, insurgents come back.

The forthcoming plan also places an onus on Pakistan to confront the threat of insurgents who use its territory as a sanctuary from attack by U.S. and allied forces, officials familiar with the program have said.

The emerging plan contemplates a large build-up of Afghan armed forces and security services, to as many as 400,000, other defense officials said. That would be more than twice the number Afghanistan now has.

U.S. military leaders have said an able Afghan military is the key to allowing U.S. and allied forces to leave.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Off topic: Spring has sprung



Now that it's officially Spring, Floridians can change their footwear.

From bottom to top:

Office flops,
Beach flops,
Yard flops (last year's office flops).

This for all you expatriate Floridians out there.

But, of course, for working in the woods, year-round snake boots are still mandatory. These things are so ugly that no self-respecting snake would try to bite them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NY Times: Gates would pay family travel to Dover

Pentagon Will Help Families Travel to Dover
By Katharine Q. Seelye

Updated | March 19

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today that the Pentagon would pay for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware if they want to be present when the body or remains of a loved one is returned from war.

Mr. Gates announced last month that the Pentagon was reversing its longstanding policy of barring media coverage during the repatriation of fallen soldiers at Dover. He said then, and reiterated today at a news conference, which the Pentagon’s Web site streamed live, that the decision about media coverage would be up to each family.

The rest of the story can be found here.

for our friends in the 82nd Airborne



Mark sent this over yesterday. I hadn't seen it before. You have to click on it to read it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From the Washington Post: Stop loss

Army to Stop Extending Tours Beyond Service Obligations

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 3:42 PM

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today that the Army will virtually eliminate the unpopular practice of "stop loss" -- or mandating that soldiers stay in the Army beyond their service obligation -- by March 2011 and will offer extra pay to soldiers whose service is extended under the policy.

About 13,000 soldiers are serving in the Army under the stop-loss policy, nearly double the number of two years ago. Gates said the goal is to reduce that number by 50 percent by June 2010 and to bring it down to scores or less by March 2011.

"I felt particularly in these numbers that it was breaking faith" to keep soldiers in the service after their end date comes up, Gates said. "To hold them against their will is just not the right thing to do," he said at a Pentagon press conference.

To achieve that, the Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under stop-loss policy beginning in August, the Army National Guard in September, and the active duty Army by January 2010.

Gate said that the Army retains the authority to use stop loss under "extraordinary" circumstances. But he said that should only happen in an "emergency situation where we absolutely had to have somebody's skills for a specific limited period of time." Such decisions would be made by the secretary of the Army, he said.
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Effective this month, the Army will also pay soldiers who are under stop loss an extra $500 per month, and those payments will be retroactive until October 2008, when they were authorized by Congress, Gates said.

STS 119: the view from Jensen Beach

From our South Florida correspondent:





Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Military support network

On Saturday, Gayle and I met up with the organizer of our military support network and her husband for drinks and hor dourves. Their son is recently back from Iraq. We were stunned to hear that his unit had suffered a 10 percent causality rate in the 15 months since our son was back from the surge. From everything I read, Iraq is supposed to be relatively peaceful, albeit fragile. Ten percent equates to 65 men killed or wounded. How is it that we don't know this?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

STS 119: Discovery lifts off



From our neighborhood, more than 100 miles away.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some chores are harder than others

video

Olustee, the border collie, takes on the evil leaf blower.

Saturday news and notes

Ft. Bragg happenings

A slide show of the First Lady's visit to Fayetteville Thursday can be found here. It's at the bottom of the story.

Mark's battalion is in from a long field exercise, so it's a working weekend for him and a lot of other soldiers. I don't think we will see him again until Memorial Day. I am hopeful that he will have a handle on his injury issues soon.

I posted the article below about the Warrior Transition Union at Bragg for a reason. The Army still has a very hard time telling the difference between a s**tbag and a soldier with legitimate health issues. In the Army's defense it would be difficult to tell if someone was shamming or really needed help. But nonetheless, with the spike in suicides and issues concerning PTSD, it's a problem the Army needs to solve.



Backyard mayhem

There was no sleeping in this morning although it was a perfect morning to do it: the beaches are socked in with a heavy fog for the second day in a row (see La Florida). At any rate, the blue jays were making this horrible racket as were the squirrels and an occasional mockingbird. Turns out there was a very large red-shouldered hawk in the sycamore tree next to the bedroom window and the blue jays were running dive-bombing sorties on him. He finally left but the blue jays are now doing victory laps around the backyard.

Front yard mayhem



Jon's surfing clothing sale (RVCA). No sign of recession there.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Army to review how injured soldiers treated

From the Fayetteville Observer:

By Kevin Maurer
The Associated Press

The general in charge of the Army’s more than 9,000 wounded soldiers said Wednesday he is ordering a review of how the ones at Fort Bragg are being punished for minor violations.

Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek said he is asking the Army Surgeon General to look at all discipline that has been taken against soldiers in the base’s Warrior Transition unit to make sure each case was fair.

Cheek’s comments come a day after The Associated Press reported that soldiers in the unit are being disciplined three times as often as those assigned to the base’s main tenant, the 82nd Airborne Division. The AP found that discipline rates vary widely across the Warrior Transition system; some units punish their soldiers even more frequently than the one at Fort Bragg, while others are far more lenient.

“We are transparent enough in this that we want to make sure that we aren’t doing anything bad by our soldiers,” Cheek said.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday news and notes

Brain injuries: Military.com this morning reports that as many as 360,000 service members have suffered some type of traumatic brain injury while deployed. If there is an upside, the vast majority of them have been concussions that required no treatment. The story can be found here.

Rumor has it: that SGT. Mark may put fingers to keyboard here soon. It's been about 10 months, which is a healthy case of writer's block. We shall see.

Full moon, Friday the 13th, the Ides of March: I'm not superstitious or anything but I think I will lay low for the next few days.

What dogs can teach us: This is from an e-mail that Gayle received:

". . . if a dog was the teacher, YOU would learn things like:

* When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
* Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
* Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
* Take naps.
* Stretch before rising.
* Run, romp, and play daily.
* Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
* Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
* On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
* On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
* When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
* Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
* Be loyal.
* Never pretend to be something you're not.
* If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
* When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

THESE ARE GOOD TIPS ~~ ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!"

I would add from our border collie: When you have some extra time, find a tennis ball and go play (i.e. exercise).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stop loss

There are two posts regarding being stop lossed. Both are by soldiers who are facing an additional 19 months in active duty with another deployment overseas. Nineteen months. This policy needs to be changed.

The posts are here and here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday news and notes

video

Gayle and I went on a field trip of sorts yesterday to celebrate some Spring like weather. We had hoped to end the trip at Big Talbot Island State Park but the traffic was soooo bad in St. Augustine that we didn't make it. But we did make it down to Washington Oaks Garden State Park, which was truly worth the trip. I will be posting pics at La Florida soon.

Bike week: Today is the last day of Bike Week in Daytona Beach. If there is a recession, there are no signs of it in the biker world. St. Augustine was chocked to the brim with Harleys and Hondas yesterday. For those of us who live here, bike week often seems like bike month. Gayle and I were looking for a beach side restaurant for lunch and couldn't find any with parking. We ended up at a Marineland snack shop.

Best signs: Virtually every business had a "Bikers Welcome" sign on display yesterday. But the ones that attracted the most bikers had "Ice Cold Beer - Bikers Welcome" signs.

Back on topic: CNN aired a piece Friday that featured two Army generals talking about their experiences with PTSD. A written version can be found here. As more ranking officers talk about their experiences, maybe the officers and non-coms down the line will understand that everyone, including themselves, are affected by their wartime experiences.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring is springing

I'm heading out for a daylong photo shoot: St. Augustine, Washington Oaks State Park and Big Talbot Island. I'm looking for some more photos for La Florida. The weather here is drop dead gorgeous.

SGT Mark is on rear "D" so he has formation both today and tomorrow. Should be a quiet weekend. There are rumors that the First Lady may visit Ft. Bragg in the near future. No confirmations yet.

Mike is in town and I need him to sign a photograph for Lolaberly that he took in Deerfield Beach a while back. She won one of the caption contests at La Florida.

I am hoping to visit him in Port St. Lucie in a few weeks. I can't wait to see the preserves which he helps to manage (although my snake boots have not arrived yet). The slither factor is one of the downsides to working outdoors in Florida. However, in 10 years in working on environmentally sensitive lands, I have seen few snakes...most have been garter or black snakes.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Photo Friday

New deployment tool



Not that we are anticipating a deployment because we are not. But we recently stumbled across this video camera called a Flip, which would have been great for the last deployment. It weighs 3 ounces, shoots in HD and a has a direct USB connection (no cables). It uploads quickly for easy e-mails and its software makes it very easy to use YouTube and other networking sites. Here's a link to the Flip website.

On Mark's last deployment, we used a DVD camera to send weekly home videos.

Of course, Gayle was giving me a hard time about taking a picture of a camera and said I should posting photos of Spring springing in Florida. So here goes:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday: News and Notes

Pops fly by:Abnpoppa blew through Jacksonville Monday. He pointed out a photo op via email on which I will have to follow up. Not sure of his final destination but I am happy to say the Florida weather is cooperating nicely.

No news is good news, maybe: Mark was on battalion CQ last night so I haven't heard from him. I am hopeful it was a quiet night. 2nd Brigade is pretty busy with training right now.

Today: started off so nicely. Had a good trip to Tallahassee yesterday. Today's meeting was in St. Augustine, which meant a nice trip down A1A past 3.5 miles of undeveloped beach front (a rarity in Florida). The weather is spectacular. The finches and robins are migrating through. All-in-all, it started out as a great day.

Then the phone started ringing: A lawsuit may stall a license plate project on which I'm working; negotiations to protect 300+ acres of marsh in Atlantic Beach are in peril; and on and on and on. Must be an Ides of March thing.

One of these days I am going to hit I-10 west, miss that Tallahassee exit and end at the California coast. :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

82nd heads back to Afghanistan


Staff photo by Marcus Castro
Maj. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, announces that his headquarters company will deploy to Afghanistan later in the spring.

From the Fayetteville Observer

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

The 82nd Airborne Division headquarters has received orders to deploy to Afghanistan this spring, the Pentagon announced Monday.

“We’ve anticipated the announcement of this deployment, obviously,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, commander of the division at Fort Bragg. “It was in the planning, and so we’ve been doing some very specific training.”

About 800 soldiers will deploy for about a year, division officials said.

The division headquarters will replace the 101st Airborne Division headquarters in Regional Command East in Bagram as part of a normal rotation of forces, 82nd officials said. The 101st is from Fort Campbell, Ky.

Scaparrotti will oversee a 23,000-person task force that includes U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, foreign troops, Department of Defense civilians, defense contractors, and federal employees from the Department of State and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies. The Pentagon also announced Monday that the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo., will deploy to Afghanistan.

“We’ve maintained a close relationship with the 101st throughout their rotation,” Scaparrotti said.

The 82nd turned over command of the headquarters to the 101st in April.

“This is a year later, and we are going back to replace them,” Scaparrotti said.

The entire story can be found here:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stop loss

It's one of many military terms that strikes terror into the hearts of parents and loved ones of soldiers. While there hasn't been a lot of talk around Ft. Bragg about soldiers being stop lossed (new verb), it's a hot topic at Ft. Lewis. I haven't seen much in the media about it but there has been some Joe talk.

Stop loss works like this: You sign up for eight but you really think you are doing four years plus basic and AIT. But in the end, if someone up the chain decides that your departure will threaten a unit's integrity and ability to achieve its mission, they might tack on some additional time.

When units are deployed, stop loss is often unavoidable. But when they are home and families have set their countdown clocks, stop loss keeps everyone up at nights.

I actually thought that with the recruiting numbers up that stop loss out of theater would stop.

Apparently not.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday news and notes

I was going to post another comment regarding the new military policy about allowing the media access to Dover homecomings - with the family's permission - but I am going to let it go. We will see how the policy works and the media behaves in the future.

It's March 1, so the winds are in like a lion. We have what I hope to be the last of the cold snaps this season just to the west of us. It's 67 now but in the next two hours we should lose about 15 degrees. We will be under a tornado watch through the morning. A freeze is predicted for the inland sections of the city but we should be OK at the beach. Gayle and I are both a little antsy about starting up the spring garden.

Bike Week at Daytona started last week and we have been hearing the rattle and thunder of the Harleys as they roll by. We live about four houses off of A1A (once a quiet road, now a four-lane highway). I was told by a curator at the Alligator Farm yesterday that the bull gators there think the Harleys sound like the bellowing male gators in mating season. Keeps them all a bit riled up...but they looked pretty quiet to me. (see La Florida)

Mark has CQ today through Monday so we won't hear from him. It's 34 with a light rain in Fayetteville. They are predicting one to three inches of snow as temperatures drop. I am hopeful for a quiet day while he is on duty.

Infantry Dad's son, who was due to ETS in April, has been given a stop-loss notice. I thought we were done will all of that in light of the positive news in the recruitment numbers. Apparently not. We will keep the family in our prayers.