Friday, September 30, 2011

More US Soldiers Committed Suicide than Died in Combat

For the second year (2010) in a row, more US soldiers killed themselves (468) than died in combat (462). “If you… know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know,” General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times, “because we don’t know.”  Suicide is a tragic but predictable human reaction to being asked to kill – and watch your friends be killed – for a war based on lies.  Perhaps being forced to bag the mangled flesh of fellow soldiers could be another reason why some are committing suicide.
Body Bagging… ever heard the term?  Soldiers in the Marine Corps’ Mortuary Affairs unit at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, are given this job… of collecting and cataloging the bodies of dead marines. They sift through the remains of the soldiers, from prom photos to suicide notes and love letters — and put their remains and effects into bags, metal boxes and refrigerators. (clarify please – are you talking about their physical remains/bodies and their effects – ie. photos, etc. or both?)  One soldier, Jess Goodell, recounts a marine brought into the unit still breathing. She frantically called to her superiors, to which they simply replied, “wait.” She watched while he died. When she returned to the US, Goodell like many others, was diagnosed with deep depression, substance abuse, PTSD and anxiety.
“Death and After in Iraq”, Chris Hedges, Truthdig, March 21, 2011.
“More US Soldiers Killed Themselves Than Died in Combat in 2010,” Cord Jefferson,  Good, January 27, 2011.
“Can You Face the True Consequences of War? The Horror of Bagging Soldiers’ Bodies in Iraq,” Chris Hedges, Alternet, March 21, 2011.
“Ten Reasons the Iraq War Was No Cakewalk,” Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis, Alternet, March 18, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Army to cut nearly 50,000 Soldiers over 5 years

The Army is preparing to launch in March a five-year, nearly 50,000-soldier drawdown, using a combination of accession cuts and voluntary and involuntary separations, similar to the post-Cold War drawdown of the 1990s, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, service personnel chief.
Bostick, the Army G-1, said the pending drawdown initially will focus on the temporary 22,000-soldier increase launched three years ago to support the Afghanistan troop surge.
These soldiers can be removed from the force primarily through offsets in accessions and retention, sources say.
The second phase of the drawdown involves 27,000 soldier spaces that were added to end strength during the Grow the Army program, leaving the service with 520,400 active-duty soldiers on Sept. 30, 2016.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the service’s new chief of staff, said in early September that the Army probably will be cut beyond the 520,000-soldier level now planned.
Bostick said “it’s not so important what the end number will be, but what will the ramp be to get to the final total? We don’t want a steep drop off.
“We can do this, and we will manage it just as we have done in the past,” said Bostick, who is pending Senate confirmation to become the chief of engineers.
“We feel that with the demand going down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and given the time to conduct a reasonable drawdown, we can manage (the force reduction) just as we have managed drawdowns in the past.”
Information provided by Bostick’s staff indicates the Army is considering all options for reducing end strength, including:
• Buyouts
• Voluntary and involuntary separations
• Retirements.
Officials note that statutory authority for some of the separation incentives used in the 1990s, such as the Special Separation Bonus, have expired. The Army has asked Congress to extend or reinstate a range of force-shaping authorities, officials said.
Those Cold War-era incentives included:
• Financial incentives.
• Temporary reductions in the service obligation incurred for promotion to the senior field-grades.
• Authority to conduct selective early retirement boards.
“We are currently reviewing the lessons drawn from the 1990s as captured in reports by the Army, Congressional Budget Office and the other services to ensure that we retain as much experience as possible from the ongoing conflicts (in Iraq and Afghanistan),” said a member of Bostick’s staff.
“As in the 1990s, the Army may need to conduct involuntary separations to meet mandated end-strength, but we will do everything we can to shape the force through competitive promotions, reclassifications and voluntary separations before we take harsher measures,” the official said.
Some force-shaping tools added to Army policy over the past two years include new, and stricter, retention control points for enlisted soldiers, a Qualitative Management Program to separate retirement-eligible senior noncommissioned officers who do not measure up to Army standards of behavior and performance, and the elimination of selective continuation for certain categories of officers who are twice passed over for promotion.
After several years of growth, promotions to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant major stalled two years ago at about 45,000 annually when Army end strength leveled off, and are unlikely to return to the record levels of 50,000 to 55,000 seen during Grow the Army.
Selection rates to drop
G-1 officials said with significant reductions to end strength scheduled through fiscal 2016, officers can expect to see adverse effects on promotion pin-on-points and selection opportunity.
“The Army will continue to promote its most qualified and experienced officers based on potential and performance, but selection rates almost certainly will decrease across all grades as end-strength requirements are reduced,” said a G-1 official.
“For example, our captain inventory is slightly above authorized strength so we will begin to reduce promotion opportunity rates to captain with the fiscal 2012 board (that convenes Nov. 30),” the official said.
The pin-on-point for advancement to captain also will increase, so that officers, on average, will spend 42 months as a lieutenant, rather than 38.
G-1 officials expect that pin-on-points for the field-grade ranks will remain consistent with the past few years, which have been slightly ahead of the promotion point goals of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act, the law governing the accession, promotion, separation and retirement of officers.
“The Army is committed to retaining as much of the hard-won experience our officer corps has gained over the past decade of conflict,” said an official.
“We will bring our selection rates back toward DOPMA goals as smoothly as possible, however promotion selection will become more competitive for all Army officers in the coming years,” said the official.
Under DOPMA, the selection opportunity goals are 90 percent for advancement to captain, 80 percent for major, 70 percent for lieutenant colonel and 50 percent for colonel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hell and Back Again

Official Site
Winner (Grand Jury Prize - 2011 Sundance Film Festival)
Winner (Cinematography Prize - 2011 Sundance Film Festival)

"Vivid and Moving" -Entertainment Weekly
"Extraordinary... Hard to Shake" -Indiwire
"A Must See!" -GQ

Documentary about Marines in Afghanistan and the effects it has when they come home


Hell and Back Again - Trailer from New Video on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Know What You're Talking About

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 -- The official end today of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law reflects the American values that military members uphold, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

"Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America's all about -- equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans," he told reporters during a Pentagon news briefing.

Panetta reaffirmed his dedication to all who are serving and ensuring everyone who wishes to serve has the opportunity to do so regardless of sexual preference.

"As secretary of defense, I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant," he said. "These are men and women who put their lives on the line in the defense of this country, and that's what should matter the most."

Panetta credited several groups for helping prepare the Defense Department for the implementation of the repeal.

"I want to thank the repeal implementation team and the service secretaries, along with the service chiefs, for all of their efforts to ensure that DOD is ready to make this change, consistent with standards of military readiness, with military effectiveness, with unit cohesion, and with the recruiting and retention of the armed forces," he said.

"All of the service chiefs have stated very clearly that all of these elements have been met in the review that they conducted," Panetta said. "Over 97 percent of our 2.3 million men and women in uniform have now received education and training on repeal as a result of these efforts.

"I also want to thank the Comprehensive Review Working Group for the work they did on the report that laid the groundwork for the change in this policy," he added.

Panetta also lauded Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his commitment to the repeal of the 1993 law.

"And above all, I'd like to single out Admiral Mike Mullen," he said. "His courageous testimony and leadership on this issue, I think, were major factors in bringing us to this day. And he deserves a great deal of credit for what has occurred."

Mullen said he steadfastly believed repealing the law was the right thing to do.

"I testified early in 2010 that it was time to end this law and this policy," he said. "I believed then, and I still believe, that it was, first and foremost, a matter of integrity."

"It was fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform," Mullen added. "We are better than that."

The chairman said the repeal will strengthen the DOD and emphasize positive values.

"Today, with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values," he said.

Mullen also emphasized the Defense Department is well prepared for implementation of the repeal.

"I am convinced we did the work necessary to prepare for this change, that we adequately trained and educated our people, and that we took into proper consideration all the regulatory and policy modifications that needed to be made," he said.

"I appreciate [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's] confidence in me, and his kind praise," Mullen said. "But today is really about every man and woman [in uniform] who serves this country, regardless of how they define themselves."

Panetta said the long-awaited repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" brings the nation closer to true equality.

"Thanks to this change, we move closer to achieving the goal that is at the foundation of American values -- equality and dignity for all," he said.

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