Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Presidential Candidates Clash on New GI Bill

Well, I suppose I have to admit that progress is being made in order to update the venerated GI Bill for our Soldiers. The issue has no come to the forefront of the Presidential race. For the last week, Senators Obama and McCain traded barbs over support for Soldiers via a renovated GI Bill program.

Democrats champion Senator Webbs bill that provides full college scholarships for people who spend three years in the armed forces. Republicans counter saying that the bill is all but an open invitation for massive of talented young Soldiers to leave the military, depriving our nation's military of a critical mass of young Noncommissioned Officers, seen by most as the backbone of our military.

Republicans counter with a bill that boosts benefits in line with how long a veteran had served. Additionaly, the Republican version supports transferrability of GI Bill benefits to spouses and dependants, pretty much making a guarantee that benefits will be used.

Personally, I'm rooting for a combination of the two. I want full college scholarships for Soldiers, but not at the expense of our Noncommissioned Officer corps. I also want to transfer my benefits to my spouse or children, as directed by the President in his last State of the Union. I guess I was asking for too much when I wanted my cake and to eat it, too.

In the end, the more attention given to the problem, the better. Soldiers will no doubt benefit greatly from either version of the bill.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day, 26 May 2008

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

John 15:13

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Al-Queda in Iraq admitting defeat?

Probably not in so many words, but they are admitting their difficulties. Courtesy The Two Malcontents, on of Al-Queda's most prolific online supporters posted posted data on on of the premier 'jihadist' websites detailing the steep decline in insurgent operations by 94 percent over the last twelve months. Eighteen months ago, A-Qaeda accounted for 60 percent of Jihadist activity in Iraq. Now they find themselves owning less than 10.

According to the post, the author tallies up and compares the numbers of operations claimed by each insurgent group under four categories: a year and half ago (November 2006), a year ago (May 2007), six months ago (November 2007) and now (May 2008). He demonstrated that while Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq could claim 334 operations in Nov. 06 and 292 in May 07, their violent output dropped to 25 in Nov. 07 and 16 so far in May 08. Keep in mind that these assessments are based on Al-Qaeda’s own numbers.

Disclaimer, I cannot read Arabic so I rely on the expertise of others. So what is the so-what? AQI is getting pasted and knows it. That one of their own felt necessary to post it (if he is one of theirs) is huge.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

VA psychologist to staff: don't diagnose PTSD

Apparently a supervisor at a VA center down in Texas took it upon herself to save her staff some money and time. I really don't know what to say. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Steal from the Rich and give it to the Vets!

OK, go ahead and read this article. It has a kind of nice 'Robin Hood' feel to it. From Yahoo:
House Democrats are proposing a tax surcharge on millionaires to pay for a big increase in education benefits for veterans of the war in Iraq, lawmakers said Tuesday.
Wait, here's my favorite:
"What we're talking about is a one-half percent income tax surcharge on incomes above $1 million," said Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., a leader of the Blue Dog group. "So someone who earns $2 million a year would pay $5,000. ... They're not going to miss it."
They're not going to miss it? Hell, they're going to revolt! Not that I don't agree with the measure and I do believe the current GI Bill is due a massive overhaul to keep pace with the high cost of a 21st century education. However, a discriminitary tax against the wealthy is probably not the way.
I predict this goes nowhere.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Military Seeks Contractors To Train Iraqi Military

From The Washigton Post:

"U.S. commanders in Iraq are for the first time seeking private contractors to form part of the small military teams that train and live with Iraqi military units across the country, according to a notice for prospective bidders published last week.

The solicitation, issued by the Joint Contracting Command in Baghdad, says the individuals that a contractor recruits -- who would include former members of the U.S. Special Forces and ex-Iraqi army officers -- will be trained in the United States with military transition teams (MiTTs) and shipped as a single team to Iraq. The recruits will live on Iraqi military bases "under Iraqi living conditions and participate with operations and convoy duties," the solicitation says."

Since my next assignment is to one of the MiTTs, when a buddy forwarded me this article my career warning light went off like a nuclear bomb. Some of my concerns are selfish, some not so much. Three quick thoughts/concerns:

1. The reality is the military is short on Field Grade officers. We need them in deploying units, we need them in legally mandated non-combat assignments, we need them to help train the Iraqi Defense Force. The Iraqi Army is getting bigger, much bigger so the projected shortage on field grades in MiTT assignments will only grow. There are not enough to go around and you can't grow a Major or Lieutenant Colonel from nothing. I understand that you must fill all three requirements and that the short term answer to that might be contractors but...

2. Contractors are not bound to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This better be on carefully written contract because last time I checked, contractors answer primarily to their employers, not the U.S. Army. Sure, we can fire them or choose not to renew their contract, but as we've seen by the actions of a few select contractors in Iraq, they are not bound by the same ethical standards as Soldiers.

Everyone I have spoken to who has already pull a MiTT assignment has warned me about the troublesome ethical climate when dealing with the Iraqis. There are cultural differences between American uniformed personnel and our Iraqi counterparts. That is not saying they do not love their country or have anything but the best intentions, but there is a certain degree of corruption built into their way of doing business.

It is not usually acceptable to us, but a way of life for them. If not for the ethical standards shown by MiTTs and their U.S. service personnel, the newest version of the IDF would not be much different than the Iraqi Army of old. To place individuals or teams that do no operate under the same ethical framework in such an important role concerns me to say the least.

3. How do I know that MiTTs are important? Because the Army says so. Many smart individuals consider the MiTTs the only true path to our ultimate exit from the war in Iraq. Only through the development of a strong internal defense can we ensure the long term stability of Iraq.

The MiTT Team Chief position is of such importance that it is now considered a "Key Duty" developmental position for Majors alongside Battalion Operations and Executive Officer positions. That means the requirements of the position are so critical and demanding that we will place it on equal footing with traditional power jobs when competing for promotion to battalion command. Now we decide we can contract out the job.

Anyone willing to contract out Battalion Operations or Executive Officer positions? How about a Commander? Yes, I have concerns. Here's to hoping the Army releasing a statement that this is all a figment of the Post's imagination.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Iraqi Officials Beginning to Point Fingers at Iran

I believe Iraqi officials are beginning to realize, perhaps too late, that getting in bed with Iran is not in the best long term interests. Yesterday, The Washington Post published a story citing a source within the Iraqi government saying Sunday that it had "concrete evidence" Iran is fomenting violence in Iraq and that a high-level panel has been formed to document the proof.

The significance here is that it is a named Iraqi official, Ali al-Dabbagh, himself an official government spokesperson, who called reporters late Sunday night to say "There is an interference and evidence that they have interfered in Iraqi affairs." Dabbagh went on to say that the proof was characterized as "concrete evidence."

The Iraqi government is very careful with regards to Iran. Historically, the two never got along. After all, Iraqis are Arabs while the Iranians are Persian. They also fought a rather significant war in recently memory not forgotten by either side. However, with the fall of a strong centralized central government, the Iranian backed Shia were able to make significant inroads into the new Iraqi government.

The Iranian-backed radical cleric al-Sadr was a huge enabler in al-Maliki's move to PM. The support was not just official. Iranian money and support flowed across the borders to the destitute Shia ghettos. The Iraqis government had to choice but to tread lightly when dealing with the issue of Iran's role in the insurgency.

That appears to be changing. This move parallels Maliki's offensive operations against illegal militias and might be oriented at pressuring Iran to cut military its military support.

What good will it do? As we've seen recently, you can have video evidence on the nightly news but the other side will simply call it 'fabricated propaganda.' In the digital age, pictures are no longer worth a thousand words, especially when the target is a country who helps you pay your bills and fight against the 'occupiers.'

International pressure is unlikely as certain members of the U.N. Security Council would never vote for any type of sanction against Iran. The best outcome comes from the knowledge that Iraq itself is looking to hopefully cut ties, at least at the government level, with Iran. No one in the region wants Iran to expand its sphere of influence into Iraq. Perhaps the Iraqis are becoming aware that they are the only ones that can prevent it.