Letters to the editor for Wednesday, May 5, 2004

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

Leadership gone bad

I have to say this stuff that happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is an example of leadership gone really bad. I can’t believe for one second that those troops didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. Nor can I believe the command was not aware that it was occurring. It sure doesn’t help our cause here in Iraq or the perspective of our being humane and following the codes of conduct. It really angers me.

Of course this type of behavior has happened in past wars when prisoners were interrogated. But I believed we were above this level of abuse and maltreatment by now. Apparently this is not the case.

I remember when I was attached to a military police company while in the reserves years ago. We were given instructions as to the laws of prisoner treatment and the Geneva Conventions, as we continually do today. The 5 S’s — secure, silence, segregate, safeguard, speed — are taught to all MPs, and the Geneva Conventions laws of prisoner treatment are taught to all soldiers, military interrogators and civilians alike.

It really turns my stomach to think that I’m in the same Army as these people, let alone the same military occupational specialty, and at a level of leadership that allowed it to continue. To use ignorance as an excuse is totally lame. It’s shameful, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Sgt. Kevin McCue
Military policeman

Action can stop bullying

Not too long ago, psychologists, counselors, teachers and administrators from our district were invited to attend a very powerful presentation by Barbara Coloroso at Ramstein American High School in Germany. It was about her book, “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School — How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence.” Coloroso is an internationally-recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, nonviolent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice. Her presentation was powerful, exciting, and stimulating because it propelled us to address bullying at our school. Readers will hear that bullying is not a “big” problem in our community, or that it is nothing compared to what students in stateside schools experience. Nevertheless, one case is too many and should be sufficient for us to take action.

Ramstein American Middle School has taken on the task of addressing bullying at our school through the Student/Staff Support Team (SST). We have been doing a great deal of work in terms of defining, analyzing and addressing bullying as it is experienced at our school. We have done sensitivity training with our staff to include presentations, and a skit was written in part and performed by students. We have also shared our initiative with other school personnel in our district, and have have formed F.A.B., or Focus Against Bullying. This is a focus group of teachers, administrators, a school counselor, a psychologist, parents and students. F.A.B.’s responsibilities are varied and specific. We’re tackling myriad topics including prevention programs, interventions, school procedures, empowering students, involving bystanders, and most importantly, getting our parents and the community to support this initiative.

Research has shown that bullying can be reduced if educators, students and parents work together to create a climate in which all kids believe they have worth, are capable human beings, are expected to serve and can resolve conflicts nonviolently. Parent and community involvement is crucial, which brings me to the purpose of this letter. This is to let readers know that through the initiative of Ramstein Middle and Ramstein High School’s Parent Teacher Student Associations, Coloroso will be in our community again. On May 17 she will speak at Vogelweh Elementary School from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and at the Ramstein American High School gym from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. On May 18, Coloroso will speak at Hambachtal Resort for the European Congress of American Parents, Teachers, and Students Convention at 1:15 p.m. Admission is free, but participants are requested to e-mail a reservation to any of the following individuals by May 14: paulrenee@interquest.de, sbrina07302@yahoo.com, or ofelia_robles@eu.odedodea.edu.

Dr. Ricardo Buitrago
Certified school psychologist
Ramstein American Middle School
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

68th Chem Company was 1st

The recent article “Apache pilots back in Iraq with 1st Cav” contained a significant historical oversight. It referred to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment as “the first 1st Cavalry Division element deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.” But history will show that distinction goes to the 68th Chemical Company. The 68th Chemical Company deployed on Feb. 6, 2003. Though the bulk of the 68th Chemical Company stayed in Kuwait, providing decontamination support in case of an Iraqi chemical attack, the 6th “Smoke Dog” Mechanized Smoke Platoon of the 68th Chemical Company was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division for the invasion of Iraq. Later, the 1st and 2nd decontamination platoons moved north to support the coalition’s effort out of Tallil air base.

The 6/68th crossed the border with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor “Speed and Power” Battalion, the lead task force in the lead brigade combat team of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 6/68th Chem continued north, conducting the longest smoke operation during Operation Iraqi Freedom on its march to the Euphrates River. It entered Baghdad International Airport on April 3, 2003, with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, the “Cotton Bailers” Battalion. After four days of intense action at BIAP, it attacked into the city along with the 3rd Infantry’s 2nd Brigade. On April 10, 6/68th returned to BIAP, providing force protection and running patrols into the Abu-Gareb area of Baghdad up until mid-May. The 6/68th Chemical Company was the sole platoon wearing the “Big Patch” on the ground in Baghdad until B Troop, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment deployed last fall.

The 68th Chemical Company returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in June, 2003. The company has now retrofitted to accomplish a new, twofold mission: conduct support and stability operations as a maneuver element and assess and mitigate toxic industrial hazards as a hazardous reaction team.

The soldiers of the 68th Chemical Company embody flexibility, great soldiering and mission accomplishment. Their contribution is somehow lost behind 1-227 Aviation’s great accomplishments in the short rewriting of history. I salute and thank the members of 1-227 Aviation — great Americans — for their contribution to OIF I and now OIF II. But please just remember that it came after the 68th Chemical Company’s.

Capt. Dennis Chatham

Send me to Iraq

As I sit here in Gaeta, Italy, doing security, I wonder. I’ve been reading about some military members who wish they were not in Iraq. I’m a prior service Marine now in the Navy who is begging for a chance to go to the desert and perform a duty that is 100 percent better than what I’m doing now.

I plan to leave after 12 years of military service to work for a private security company in Iraq. Why can’t there be a way for troops who want to perform their duties in a combat zone? I wish I could take the spot of someone who wishes he wasn’t in Iraq.

Jason Kefelian
Gaeta, Italy

Pacific edition

The 57th, still soaring in Iraq

The 57th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) has been a mainstay of the Army since the conflict in Vietnam as an angel of mercy for soldiers on the ground. We’ve demonstrated over and over that we’ll go “unarmed, unaware, unafraid” into harm’s way to save those who can no longer save themselves. We follow the words of Maj. Charles Kelley: “Not until I have your wounded,” his last words before he was mortally wounded landing in a hot landing zone.

The 57th Medical Company (AA) is currently going above and beyond by serving beyond the 365-day tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first 365 days resulted in no deaths or permanent injuries to any member of the company and no loss of equipment while still transporting more than 1,000 soldiers, U.S. civilians, Iraqi civilians and even Iraqi insurgents. In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, we’ve carried the U.S. soldier mangled by a rocket-propelled grenade and in the next helicopter carried a smiling Iraqi who fired that very RPG because he had a minor bullet wound that resulted in his capture.

We fulfill mission requirements with people who have not been home on rest and recuperation leave because only 40 percent of the company was allowed to go home during our last year. These soldiers are enduring strife at home because of the continued deployment and have little idea of when they’ll finally go home themselves.

They survive with what they would have carried on the plane ride home – two check bags and a carry-on, because everything else has already been shipped. They have not received mail in two months because of redeployment and still have no mailing address because they lack certainty in where they will be next week. In spite of it all, we will be there.

Now we’re being asked to provide people to help other units. We are soldiers and will continue to do our duty if required. The nonflying soldiers of the unit remaining in limbo will probably enjoy something to keep them busy and keep their minds off of their own troubles. We want to help, so what can we do for our fellow soldiers?

It seems that we are to be utilized to process soldiers who are going home on rest and recuperation leave. We will facilitate the joyous relief of those soldiers away from their families and in harm’s way. Again, this is a noble effort for the men and women of the 57th Med. But these very soldiers who will put the smiles on those faces will probably not have seen their own families in more than a year and will not even be receiving pictures of those family members in the mail. But we will not falter in our service.

I cry as I write this for the families that endure, for those that will not, for those families that have lost loved ones already in spite of our best efforts, and for my own brothers and sisters in the 57th of whom I am so proud. We will not give up. But who will save us when we can no longer save ourselves?

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stuart Byrd
Camp Udairi, Kuwait