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.

Original Link

Sunday, September 18, 2011

91-year-old war vet cleared in fatal shooting

A World War II-era Army veteran who said he was forced to defend himself last year, slaying a man at his northeast Houston home, has been cleared by a Harris County grand jury.
Jack Hands, 91, fatally shot a younger man who threatened to kill him during an altercation.
This week, a panel declined to indict Hands on one count of murder and a possession of a prohibited weapon charge.
The younger man was among the unemployed, down-on-their-luck or drug-addicted folks who had been helped by Hands, then 90. The nonagenarian offered odd jobs and lent money - even to people who stole from him, neighbors said.
The shooting happened last September in the 6200 block of Antha near Eastex Freeway and Tidwell. Police released Hands without charges after questioning him.
Reached by phone Friday, Hands said the incident happened when the younger man came into the house and grabbed a 9 mm automatic weapon.
"He wouldn't give me the gun. I was trying to take it from him," said Hands, a retired security guard who lives with his black Labrador retriever, Night. "He was determined to go out of here with that gun. I grabbed him and slung him around and the gun flew out of his hand. That's when I started working on him with my fists."
Then, the older man got his sawed-off shotgun. When the younger man tried to grab that weapon, Hands fired.
Hands said he'd like authorities to return the three weapons confiscated during the investigation. He said he began carrying the 12-gauge Stevens shotgun at age 9 to protect himself from "alligators, bad snakes and bad dogs" he encountered in the swamps of his native Georgia.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tougher APFT

The tough new Army Physical Readiness Test may be getting tougher as officials consider three key changes:
• The addition of dead-hang pull-ups — perhaps to replace push-ups.
• Doubling the rower from one minute to two minutes.
• Returning to a two-mile run.
The changes result from an analysis of statistical data and comments from the rank and file, said Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, deputy commanding general of Initial Military Training at Training and Doctrine Command.
The Army Physical Fitness School, which played a key role in designing the new test, has completed 8,000 of 10,000 initial tests that will build the test’s scoring scales. But the effort “is not just number crunching,” Longo said. “We are listening to some incredibly insightful soldiers and leaders and collecting new and good ideas on the test.”
And the introduction of pull-ups is at the top of that list.
Replacing push-ups with dead-hang pull-ups was among the first things considered when officials began to develop the new test.
Second, officials are adamant that the new test remain gender neutral, with identical events for men and women. There will be different scoring standards based on physiological differences, but female soldiers would be required to do dead-hang pull-ups.
“The average [for women] might be three or four pull-ups,” Longo said. “Excellent might be seven. Poor might be one. So that means each additional pull-up might be worth 25 points. I don’t know if that’s what we want.”
The initial answer was to introduce new standards for push-ups. They are tougher and better replicate the motion of a soldier pushing someone away to get position of dominance or pushing himself up from a prone position. But soldiers at all ranks have said they want pull-ups added, and Longo said he agrees with them because the exercise is “a better measure of that which we ask our soldiers to do in combat.”
Longo is including pull-ups when thousands of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, take the new test Sept. 13-20.
The Marine Corps also is considering an overhaul of its Physical Fitness Test that would require women to do pull-ups to obtain a perfect score. A June 17 plan recommends that women be allowed to score up to 70 points for maintaining the existing flexed-arm hang for 70 seconds. They would need to do pull-ups to make up the remaining 30 points. Another option under consideration is to give 75 points for one pull-up with five points awarded for each additional pull-up. A perfect score would be obtained with six pull-ups.
Male Marines are given five points for each pull-up, with a minimum requirement of three. They can get a maximum of 100 points with 20 dead hangs.
A second change that will be tested at Fort Bliss is doubling the rower from one to two minutes.
The rower has a very steep bell curve and there is not a lot of variation, Longo said. Officials want to know if extending the rower to two minutes can better measure the difference between a soldier with good overall body fitness and one who can bust out a high number in one minute, but is spent afterward.
Most soldiers average 36-37 rowers in one minute, based on age and gender. In the current test, male trainees at Fort Jackson, S.C., average 62 sit-ups in two minutes, while female trainees average 61, according to Army data.
The third possible change — keeping the run at two miles instead of the new 1.5-mile distance — will not be tested at Fort Bliss because the Army already has ample data, Longo said.
“For the physiologist and the statistician, 1.5 miles is all I need to measure fitness,” Longo said. “But commanders have said resoundingly to me that they want it to stay two miles. While 1.5 miles measures all we need to measure about your cardiovascular fitness, that other half-mile measures the other piece of the heart – the piece that keeps you going in Afghanistan at 10,000 feet with an 80-pound ruck. That’s compelling to me.”
A final set of tests will be conducted by month’s end at Fort Lee, Va., to close a “statistical gap” that exists because there is not enough data from women over 30 to get a good sample. The final recommendations will follow a three-month analysis and will be presented to leadership at the beginning of 2012. Longo expects a final decision by April, followed by a six-month transition and full implementation by Oct. 1, 2012.

Monday, September 5, 2011


CADPAT - Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT) is the computer-generated digital camouflage pattern currently used by the Canadian Forces. CADPAT is designed to reduce the likelihood of detection by night vision devices. The basic uniform consists of a wide brim combat hat, helmet cover, shirt, jacket, trousers, fragmentation vest and Tacvest. It was the first digital pattern introduced. The pattern was copyrighted upon its introduction.  Source

Bunny - This complete mascot costume includes: oversized character mascot head with terrific facial details & mesh eyes, plush body with attached tail and zipper in back, mitts, spats, and parade big feet. Oversized mascot heads are made of foam, lined in latex and covered with faux fur. Carrot sold separately. Vision for this mascot is through the eyes.  Source

Flecktarn - (German: "spotted camouflage"; also known as Flecktarnmuster, Fleckentarn or simply Fleck) is a 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-colour disruptive camouflage pattern. The use of spots creates a "dithering" effect, which eliminates hard boundaries between the different colours in much the same way the squares in the newest digital camouflage patterns do. The pattern is designed for use in temperate woodland terrain. It has been adapted as desert camouflage by varying the colours.  Source

Multicam - a single camouflage pattern designed to help the wearer hide in varied environments, seasons, elevations, and light conditions. It is a 7-color, multi-environment camouflage pattern developed by Crye Associates in conjunction with U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (also known as U.S Army Natick labs). The pattern was on the race to replace the 3-color desert and Woodland patterns, but originally lost to the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) in 2004, seen in the Army Combat Uniform. However, it has been newly commissioned in 2010 and will be replacing the UCP pattern over time for use by US Army Units serving in Afghanistan, Under the Designation OCP or Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern.  

It is already used by some American Special Operations units and law enforcement agencies. 

The US Army has recently approved the use of MultiCam for the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed to Afghanistan.  Source

MARPAT - (short for MARine PATtern) is a digital camouflage pattern in use with the United States Marine Corps, introduced with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), which replaced the Camouflage Utility Uniform. The pattern is formed by a number of small rectangular pixels of color. In theory, it is a far more effective camouflage than standard uniform patterns because it mimics the dappled textures and rough boundaries found in natural settings. This is caused by how the human eye interacts with pixelated images. It is also known as the "digital pattern" or "digi-cammies" because of its micropattern (pixels) rather than the old macropattern (big blobs).

The United States Marine Corps has patented MARPAT, including specifics of its manufacture.  By regulation, the pattern and items incorporating it, such as the MCCUU and ILBE backpack, are to be supplied by authorized manufacturers only and are not for general commercial sale, although imitations are available such as "Digital Woodland Camo" or "Digital Desert Camo".

MARPAT is also important in that it identifies warfighters as Marines to their enemies, while its camouflage simultaneously helps Marines to remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine Spokesman who, when MARPAT was launched, said, "We want to be instantly recognised as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new uniforms."  Source

Tiger - (a.k.a. Tigerstripe) is the name of a group of camouflage patterns developed for close-range use in dense jungle during jungle warfare by the South Vietnamese Armed Forces/US Forces. It derives its name from its resemblance to a tiger's stripes. It features narrow stripes that look like brush-strokes of green and brown, and broader brush-strokes of black printed over a lighter shade of olive or khaki. The brush-strokes interlock rather than overlap, as in French Lizard pattern (TAP47) from which it apparently derives. There are many variations: R.D. Johnson counted at least 19 different versions in early drafts of Tiger Patterns, his definitive work on the subject, although it is unclear if these are all different print patterns, or if they include color variations of a few different print patterns.  Source

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In case you guys didn't hear, Google is now allowing deployed U.S. service members!

From Google's blog:

"We understand that it’s not always easy or affordable for our troops serving overseas to call friends and family at home, so starting today we’re making it completely free for all uniformed military personnel with valid United States Military (.mil) email addresses to call the United States, right from Gmail.

There are two easy steps to enable free calling from Gmail (detailed instructions):
  1.  Add your valid .mil email address to your Google Account
  2.  Click on the Call phone link at the top of the Gmail chat roster and install the voice and video Gmail plugin if you haven’t already.
  3.  And don’t forget that for friends and family at home in the U.S., calling troops abroad is as little as $.02/minute.

Similar to free calling within the U.S., free calling to the U.S. for service members will be available for at least the rest of 2011.

We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice." -- Link

Big ups to Google for doing this!