August 24

Women in military

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 24 Women in military Army behind curve Positive change Active duty should take over Living conditions unequal Guardsmen slightedAugust 25 Adversity a challenge Wedding anniversary Sept. 11 LetterLetters entertaining Lack of resources Policy inconsistencies Bob HopeAugust 26 Military police in IraqAugust 27 Promotion systemAugust 28 Educating parents Warm feelings Soldiers and children Easy to fixAugust 29 Enjoying Kuwait AAFES lacking Where’s Baldo? Unit stop loss Cost of gas Keep heads upAugust 30 Water LetterLetter response Children suffer Wrong reasons

I’d like to send out a special thanks to all the women serving in the military. Today’s military is growing greatly in its number of females. We have earned our respect and are treated as equals among our male servicemembers. However, it seems that most media give their attention to the men’s wives and families, or to women only in tragic cases.

I’d especially like to thank some of my fellow female GIs in the First Platoon of the 1168th Transportation Company from Iowa for their dedication and hard work.

• Sgt. Sara Cox, an elementary school teacher, has left daughters Kasandra, 5, and Grace, 3, in the care of her parents.• Sgt. Krista Lewis has left daughter Ashlyn, 3, in the care of her ex-husband and family.• Sgt. Melanie Ford celebrated her first wedding anniversary on Aug. 4.• Spc. Laura Rooker is deployed to our unit along with her husband. Their daughter, Kinsee, celebrated her second birthday on Aug. 13. Kinsee has been left in the care of Rooker’s parents.• Spc. Jennifer Lester celebrated her 21st birthday in Kuwait in June. She is engaged to Sgt. James Miller, who is also in our unit. They will have to wait until their return to the United States to exchange their wedding vows.• Spc. Brandy Spivey had just missed the third birthday of her son, Lane, when we were activated.• Pfc. Jayme Wendt returned from basic training and Advanced Individual Training just in time to deploy with our unit. She had less than a week to say hello, goodbye and celebrate her birthday.

I’d also like to thank my own husband, Justin, my parents, family and friends for their support.

I think the families of women serving our country have a unique challenge and deserve recognition. We’re all mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and aunts. Our numbers are growing, and so should our share of media stories.

Staff Sgt. Monica O’NeillKuwait

Army behind curve

I have to agree with the letter “Petty rules spoil morale” (July 1). The Army sends a message of the need for smart, bright students to join a newer, more intelligent, more high-tech military. Recruiters, on the other hand, will do anything to fill positions for unpopular and undermanned military occupational specialties. This leads to naïve soldiers, many with excellent grades and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores, to be placed in a grunt work environment without the ability to use their intelligence for the jobs. This leads to disenchantment with the military, a change of service to the Air Force or an early expiration of term of service.

I joined thinking that the stereotype of simple-minded and ignorant soldiers was an outdated and demeaning cliché. But the Army still sets itself in traditional, unadaptive patterns. Work tasks rely on “pick up and put over there” methods rather than using ingenuity or basic mechanisms such as levers or the wheel.

As an artilleryman, technology is visibly outdated and slow to change. While the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim still applies, so does Moore’s Law. There is always room for a more efficient, more compact piece of technology, especially in a unit that relies on accuracy. But the Army as a whole is slow to keep up with the curve, something its commercials suggest otherwise.

While I believe in standard Army procedures, there are countless ways to streamline work, paperwork, leadership, communications, intelligence, field data and quality of life for soldiers using newer technologies to save time, work and hassles.

When people assume the Army is equivalent to the Air Force on land, it’s sad when instead they find themselves in the movie “Renaissance Man.”

Pfc. Tim TurnerIraq

Positive change

I wrote the letter “Where’s the leadership” (June 16). It was about the lack of water and food for troops in Iraq. Today I’m happy to report that many great changes have taken place in Task Force Ironhorse.

Since June, a full morale, welfare and recreation facility has been developed that includes the Internet, pool, pingpong and much more. We receive two cooked meals a day and a great brunch that oftentimes has steak and other good food. We have also received a swamp cooler and daily blocks of ice.

This is a great example of leaders making positive changes for their personnel.

Pfc. Jason WallerIraq

Active duty should take over

I’m writing in response to active-duty members who say we’re whining about being deployed to Iraq or this is what we volunteered for.

I served as an active-duty Marine from 1988 to 1992, including eight months in Operation Desert Storm. After being out of the military for eight years, I decided to join the National Guard. I wanted a parttime job, to serve my country and to learn another job skill. I planned on possibly helping with floods, storms or riots in our nation.

We were called up on Feb. 7 and sat at a base until May 25, when we finally went to Iraq. We’re currently in northern Iraq performing cleanup and rebuilding.

Active-duty personnel need to understand that guardsmen and reservists have full-time jobs or are in school. They’re also involved in organizations such as the Cub Scouts, etc. Like some active-duty servicemembers, we’re also married with children. We also own homes.

I gave up active duty after spending two and a half years of my four-year enlistment deployed away from my wife. We’ve only been in Iraq for a little more than two months, but we’ve been away from our lives for six months. We have no idea when we’ll go home. We didn’t volunteer for this. We live with no Internet, few phones and a slow mail system. These are our only connections to home.

I think it’s time that active-duty servicemembers — the people who did sign up for this — take over. Guardsmen and reservists have done their part and done it well. Send us home. Don’t get me wrong. I was active duty, and those servicemembers do a great job. But remember that it’s their only job.

Spc. Chad GarciaIraq

Living conditions unequal

I’m assigned to the 442nd Quartermaster Company of Bellefont, Pa. Our current assignment is Baqubah, Iraq. I don’t understand why our living conditions are so poor. At Camp Anaconda, which is about 35 minutes away, there’s everything a soldier needs, from a huge post exchange to air-conditioned sleeping areas and morale, welfare and recreation tents.

Our PX building in Baqubah is about 40 feet long by 20 feet wide. Its shelves are usually empty. There’s usually a limit on darn near everything. My fellow soldiers and I purchased a window air conditioner due to the runaround we kept receiving from the 204th Forward Support Battalion to whom we’re attached.

Why is there such a difference in living conditions from one camp to the next? We’re all in Iraq. Each one of us could lose our lives as easily as the next. All that I’m saying is that the living conditions should be the same.

Spc. Tyrone GrossBaqubah, Iraq

Guardsmen slighted

“National Guard moves on Baghdad.” This is the headline that many of us in the Guard eagerly anticipated seeing in Stars and Stripes. Like so many other servicemembers, we look forward to reading military news around the world as reported by the “military’s paper.” It’s been our only source of news since Camp Virginia’s morale tent was toppled by heavy winds in early April. But we’re constantly disappointed by the lack of coverage that we receive, not only from Stripes but also from all other forms of media.

For instance, the article “Not wasting time in Medical City” (June 9) didn’t include us at all. The story was about a first sergeant in the 1st Armored Division who’s attempting to rid Medical City in Baghdad of its biohazard. He told a story about seeing a cat carrying a human hand. Our unit was relieved by the 1st AD, and during the changeover guardsmen told the story of seeing a cat performing this trick earlier that month. This is either the same cat and it has a hand fetish or there are multiple cats snagging hands from the hospital grounds. The article was written four days after we were relieved by 1st AD.

An earlier article was about the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment finally making night patrols in the area around Medical City. This was considered relevant journalism because of the dangerous implications of night patrols in Baghdad. If that was newsworthy, then it should have been newsworthy to hear that we guardsmen had been patrolling the area day and night since we relieved the 101st Airborne Division on May 3.

As a Guard unit we’ve received very little credit for the work we’ve done. It’s disrespectful that we men who’ve sweat and bled haven’t been given the simple courtesy of being recognized. The recent USO show at Baghdad International Airport was a prime example. At each show the 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division, Marines and Air Force were recognized. We were slighted. Why didn’t the performers and hosts thank us? Perhaps it’s because they, like us, read Stars and Stripes.

Marvin RydbergIraq

August 25

Adversity a challenge

I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to all the members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Whether at home in support of our troops and mission, or abroad fighting evil, their dedication to our country, as well as their commitment to creating a better future for those they bravely fight to free, does not go unnoticed. No matter what the opinion polls say or what the rumor factory has produced, they are supported and their service is needed. Thanks again. They are all my heroes.

I’d also like to ask everyone to have a little more patience with one another. I sense so much anger directed at each other in this forum. I know that those who are downrange want desperately to come home. Believe me, their loved ones on the other end want the same. But this is the military. In all actuality, this is what they signed up to do, whether they believe in the cause or not. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. There’s a reason we’re involved, and they may not realize the magnitude of their contributions until much later. But they are great.

So the next time servicemembers feel their situation is unimaginable, they should just remember that it could be worse. Let’s all be grateful for what we do have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. Adversity is simply a challenge to make us stronger.

Sandi BennettGiebelstadt, Germany

Wedding anniversary Sept. 11

I’m an Army wife who’s been married for 12 wonderful years. Our anniversary is on Sept. 11. This is a significant day for the whole world. It’s a very tragic day. We’ll never forget, as we should not.

This letter is directed to all the people who tell me to celebrate my anniversary on a different day. Why? Before the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, this day was someone’s birthday or anniversary. There were numerous reasons to celebrate. Should that change because they fall on a certain date? Should a 5-year-old be told she can’t celebrate her birthday because her special day is only a day for pain? What about all the beautiful children who were actually born on that fateful day?

I say a prayer on every Sept. 11 and remember. But I also celebrate my special day. Others should not be so heartless as to say we should change our day. They should remember all that the day stands for, good and bad.

Shawna SilvasWürzburg, Germany

Letters entertaining

There’s nothing more entertaining to me than reading a letter that a grown man with a weapon has written that’s openly whining for all the world to read. I mean, who needs air conditioning, ice cream and the Internet when there’s so many complainers out there?

My four months of deployment have flown by thanks to all the free entertainment. If I’d had the chance to see Kid Rock, a Playboy bunny and Arnold, I’d have stayed in my hooch just to read the letters.

The writers are funny, even the writer of the letter “No phones, Internet” (July 23) with all of his demanding. I thought that was hilarious. Good luck on those phone calls, letter writer! He could always come to Camp Warhorse in Ba’qubah and play “dodge the mortar” or “rocket propelled grenade hide and go seek.” Now that’s quality entertainment.

I wish all the writers the best of luck. I’m surviving this ordeal. I couldn’t care less about the Internet and ice cream.

Staff Sgt. Jimmy C. ComptonBa’qubah, Iraq

Lack of resources

I’m with B Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment. We’re currently attached to Task Force 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment out of Baumholder, Germany. We’ve been in Iraq for about two and a half months. We’ve seen our share of headaches, from moving every other week to actually not getting drinkable water. This is frustrating for all of us, especially when we’re conducting real-world missions. At one point water was so scarce that my platoon had to buy water on the economy out of our own pockets from Iraqi civilians. Yes, privates and sergeants had to put in some of their own money in order to have water. It was the same with ice, which we are also supposed to receive from TF 26 Infantry.

The moving situation is a morale destroyer. We never know if we’re going to stay in the run-down building we live in with no air conditioners, no windows and no running water. To make it even worse, we have a nuclear power plant about 50 miles from our location. This brings me to my final call for help. We U.S. Army members, soldiers, parents, sons and brothers are being exposed, and nothing is being done about it. There are no official records being kept on the amount of radiation or possible side effects.

This letter is meant to inform members of Congress and other influential people in the United States that their armed forces are not being fully taken care of. They’ll wonder why soldiers are demoralized and ask themselves and leadership what’s really going on. The Army has given me a lot. But now I think it’s setting us up for failure. Without some of these resources we won’t be able to accomplish our mission.

Staff Sgt. Johny JimenezIraq

Policy inconsistencies

Can someone please explain the policy inconsistencies concerning personal and vehicle identification and vehicle inspection when driving onto various military installations in Stuttgart, Germany? My question is directed to the policy makers, not the policy implementers.

When I drive through the gate of any base in Stuttgart, I’m required to show my ID card, driver’s license and vehicle registration. Yet on recent trips to Ramstein Air Base, Landstuhl, Heidelberg and Gar- misch, I was required to show only my ID card. Why? When I’m driving a rental car, I’m not required to show any vehicle identification at the gate. Why?

Why does Kelley Barracks have a new, permanent vehicle inspection station, while Robinson and Panzer have semitemporary stations and Patch Barracks, European Command Headquarters, has nothing? Why was my U.S. Army Europe-plated car pulled for inspection three times in a recent week by the German augment troops on Kelley? Why are all German-plated cars pulled for inspection on Kelley, yet most are waived through the gate at Patch?

Readers should not misunderstand me. I appreciate the concern for my security, and I support those who implement the policies. My frustration lies with the inconsistencies at our regional military bases.

Pam EwellStuttgart, Germany

Bob Hope

The U.S. military and America have lost a dear friend in Bob Hope. I guess I’ve been around long enough to remember Hope doing his Christmas shows for the troops in Vietnam when I was a kid and being in the first Gulf war when he gave his show. I also remember him coming to Germany and Korea.

I guess when Hope did his first show for the troops he didn’t realize what they would think. He didn’t know if they would give him the cold shoulder because he was a celebrity and didn’t get dust and dirt in his morning coffee. But soldiers have been true throughout the ages about one thing for certain: Whoever stands in front of them better mean it from the heart, or they simply shouldn’t waste their time.

Over the many years, it was never too cold, rainy, windy or hot for Hope to visit the troops. They broke the mold after him.

We unloaded the cargo ships in Kuwait this year. I heard some soldiers talking about the new ships we had. They said that they can get the cargo from point A to point B faster than before. They’re the new Bob Hope class of ships. Thanks for the memories, Bob.

Sgt. Kent J. HopkinsTaji Air Base, Iraq

August 26

Military police in Iraq

There is a common, yet not-so-favorable belief that military police are merely “Army cops.” But the mission of the military police corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom extends far beyond simply guarding gates and handling enemy prisoners of war. Military police units in Iraq play a critical role in assisting combat and support forces traveling to the front lines, protecting main supply routes from terrorist and criminal attacks, and defending both coalition forces and noncombatant civilians from harm’s way. Gen. John Abizaid, the deputy commander (forward) for Combined Forces Command, has declared that the main enemy threat uses guerrilla tactics. The Military Police Corps, in its everyday missions, does its part to deter, neutralize and destroy this significant and unconventional threat.

The 300th Military Police Company contributes to the fight against guerrilla terrorism in several ways. By maintaining a constant and ever-vigilant presence along the main supply routes, the patrols of the 300th Military Police Company have deterred this insurgent threat to the extent that nearly 5,000 military convoys have driven along this main highway without incident. The dominant presence that these patrols have had along this main route has deterred enemy activity. But deterrence alone is not enough.

To ensure the safety of this main highway after the 300th Military Police Company heads home, these meticulous MPs have made bold efforts to neutralize the enemy threat. The 300th patrols search high and low to confiscate illegal weapons in their area on a daily basis. If all the illegal weapons in the area are removed, the threat will deteriorate.

One squad in the 300th has been particularly successful with weapons confiscation. The success of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon cannot be attributed to mere luck. According to the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Biehl, the soldiers are creative, aggressive, and know when to follow their instincts as military police. This aggression and creativity has lead to more than 200 weapons systems discovered and 62 weapons confiscated by the squad in less than two months without incident.

The methods of finding these weapons include searching suspicious buildings, looking for weapons caches in likely off-road areas, and setting up mobile vehicle checkpoints that stop and search vehicles along the main roads. One team leader, Sgt. Casey Schwab, describes the event that lead to the 1st Squad confiscating four AK-47 rifles from a single vehicle: “We saw this car stop before it came up to [our mobile checkpoint] and then it approached. There was one empty magazine and one full magazine in the vehicle, so I walked about 10 meters back and found four AKs. Well, would you look at that!”

The 300th Military Police Company continues to diligently patrol its small piece of Iraq in order to keep coalition forces and United Nations’ personnel safe from harm and also to neutralize the threat of guerrilla attacks in their area. This single company of MPs may not be able to win the war against terrorism on its own, but its members certainly do their part.

2nd Lt. Patricia KastIraq

August 27

Promotion system

I’m currently deployed with the 988th Military Police Company in An Najaf, Iraq. I have some questions about the Army’s promotion system for enlisted soldiers.

I joined the Army as an infantryman and spent my first four years in a deployable unit in which we did just that — deploy. No sooner would we return from a deployment than we’d find ourselves back in the field training or preparing for another deployment. I’ve since reclassed and have found my way into another deployable unit. And once again, I’m deployed.

I recently attended the E-5 Promotion Board, but I didn’t make the cutoff score needed to be promoted. This is where my questions begin. While I’ve spent a majority of my time in the field or on deployment receiving the training and experience needed to become a leader, my nondeployable peers have sat in the rear going to military schools and getting the civilian educations they need to get promoted. Does the Army really want to base its leadership on points from schools and colleges?

I'm deployed in a real-world situation. I'm working with many team leaders who’ve spent most of their time in garrison or came into the Army after time in college. These same people have had the time to do both correspondence and take college courses if they didn’t already have them. Because of their time for schools and college, they’ve made cutoff and have been promoted. Many of them have less time in service and grade than I do. What they don’t have is the field time, training or experience needed to do the jobs that we’re doing here in Iraq. What they do have is points, and because of this, those of us who do have field time and experience find ourselves being moved around a lot to strengthen teams and team leaders who lack this knowledge.

I haven’t had the opportunity to enroll in or complete any civilian education and have had to ask for multiple extensions on Army correspondence due to deployments and field time. But I’ve been through two rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center, the National Training Center and Yuma Proving Grounds. I’ve also deployed to Japan for Operation Orient Shield. None of these deployments were less than a month long. Are these deployments not worth any points? Are correspondence and college courses more important than experience?

How can this be fair? Is it not an issue when I have to answer the questions that someone else is getting paid and trusted to answer? I’m also supposed to trust the judgment and decisions that they make, many of which can ultimately be life threatening. Are the answers to these life-threatening decisions found in textbooks and online correspondence or in the field with time and experience? What are points in relation to time and experience? Three hundred possible promotion points come from a combination of correspondence and college out of a maximum of 800 points. That’s a lot of points that won’t really help in a real-world deployment or with troop leading procedures, for that matter. Can someone please explain the logic behind this?

Spc. Jamie WynnAn Najaf, Iraq

August 28

Educating parents

I’d like to respond to the letter “Let children be children” (Aug. 21). The writer asked, “What happened to the days when children could go outside without the government getting in the way of it?”

Simply, what happened was Elizabeth Smart, Adam Walsh, Polly Klaas, Amber Hagerman, and thousands of other children who have been kidnapped, and, sadly, murdered. Elizabeth Smart was incredibly lucky and unusual in that she was found, months later, alive and well. The vast majority of kidnapped children are never seen alive again. Unfortunately, we no longer live in a society where people can leave their front doors open and unlocked and just listen once in a while to hear little Johnny or Sally outside playing. Children also have accidents that require immediate responses, which cannot be provided if moms or dads are busy inside watching TV and only partially listening for the kids.

The writer said she stays inside watching TV and doesn’t provide “eyeballs on” supervision of her children. She further said that she doesn’t consider her actions negligent.

I’ve been working in the field of domestic violence and abuse for more than 15 years. It’s rare that people who abuse their children will call themselves abusive. They’re only doing the same thing their parents did to them — whipping them, bruising them or leaving them alone for hours at a time. Similarly, alcoholics deny they are alcoholics, and murderers deny they murder, even with overwhelming evidence.

Nevertheless, not closely supervising young children is negligent. If someone calls the military police because they don’t see an adult supervising children outside (or see a child left alone in a car), parents will be investigated, assessed and have to talk to numerous people to explain their actions. They will also possibly be found to have neglected their children. But usually we try to educate parents about the need and reasons for close supervision.

The rules of our communities are clear. Children approximately age 8 and under must have “eyeballs on” supervision 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Parents who want to know precisely what the child supervision guidelines are for their communities should contact their base support battalion command, Army Community Services, Social Work Services or one of the numerous other helping agencies in their communities. They will be more than happy to provide parents with copies.

Rather than get an attitude that “no one can tell me how to raise my kids,” people should focus on how to be the best parents possible. If they’re not sure how to do that, they should ask for help. There’s a lot out there.

Glen P. CorlinChief, Social Work ServicesWiesbaden Health ClinicWiesbaden, Germany

Warm feelings

I read with much interest and some amusement the article “Pro-American pizzeria owner” (Aug. 21) in the News Tracker section. It was about a Danish pizzeria owner who refused to serve German and French tourists who he considered anti-American. Can I have the address and phone number of the restaurant? Does it deliver? I’d be willing to call in an order or stop by on my next trip to Denmark.

I have warm feelings for Denmark and Danes, as I owe my existence to a group of Danish resistance fighters during World War II. They protected and hid my father and his entire B-17 crew when their plane crash-landed near Copenhagen in April 1944. The leader kept the crew in his personal apartment for two or three days until an escape to Sweden could be arranged. The leader’s reward, barely three months later, was to die in his own living room in a hail of Gestapo bullets. Mr. Robert Jensen, code name “Tom,” was posthumously awarded the U.S. Silver Star by President Truman for the rescue.

Col. Ronald B. SmithKaiserslautern, Germany

Soldiers and children

I’m writing in response to the letter “Kids without parents” (Aug. 1). I’m the wife of a soldier who’s currently in Iraq. I’m also a veteran. I empathize with all parents who are separated from their children, but I can’t agree with the letter.

My husband and I have two children. Although I hate that he’s away and our children miss him, the Army is his job and our livelihood. The Army was his job before we had children, and we were prepared for any separations that might come. I respect my husband’s profession. He’s a great soldier who’s essential to his unit. I wouldn’t want him anywhere but with his guys.

I was in the military when I had my oldest child, and I understood and dealt with my separations, as any soldier should. They weren’t ever easy, but it was a decision I made when I decided to become a soldier with a family.

What needs to be understood is that we live in a wonderful country that allows us to make our own decisions. Deciding to join the military is one of those. No one is forced to sign up. It’s long hours, hard work and not the greatest pay. It also means that if need be, a soldier may have to go away for a long time.

Long-term separation from a child is awful. I know. I’ve lived it. But the day soldiers sign their enlistment contracts is the day the Army depends on them. Deciding to have a baby is not a valid reason to punish an entire unit by pulling a soldier out of a deployment or field exercise early. Even more importantly, soldiers and their spouses have children every day. What would happen if all the soldiers who have children were allowed to go home and be with them? That would put the stability of the military and our country at risk.

I’m glad the letter writer doesn’t have children, and as long as she’s in the Army she shouldn’t! The bottom line is that if soldiers can’t handle being separated from their children, they should change their line of work or not start families.

Candace HollingsworthFriedberg, Germany

Easy to fix

Lately there have been many letters regarding troop discontent in the Middle East. Many letter writers have voiced complaints running a gamut of issues, from poor living conditions to not having end dates. Other troops have replied that servicemembers should suck it up and drive on. Both are right to a degree. We’re in a very hot, inhospitable land. It’s not pleasant to be here. But much of the discontent could be easily alleviated.

I’m an Army reservist. We’ve been activated for more than six months now. The first three months we spent at our home station and Fort Drum, N.Y. For the most part, those three months consisted of us sitting around doing absolutely nothing. This was extremely frustrating. We missed the war and our families, and by not getting in country promptly we extended our overall deployment. This was completely unnecessary.

Another complaint commonly voiced is the lack of redeployment dates. I find it hard to believe that the Army can coordinate the movement of millions of pounds of materiel a day, yet it doesn’t know when our planes are coming in. This is probably the most prevalent complaint I’ve heard.

It would be so easy to fix these problems. The deployment process should be streamlined, and the brass needs to start divulging information to the troops. Do I think this will happen? Probably not. The upper echelons seem not to care much about the troops. But they will be forced to care in the next few years when retention rates become horrendous.

Spc. Sean McCarthyKuwait

August 29

Enjoying Kuwait

I’ve been deployed here in Kuwait with AAFES since June. And like or unlike some people, I’m enjoying my time here. I enjoy meeting new people, hearing stories that soldiers are willing to tell, and offering an ear when they need someone to listen. Along with listening, I not only hear stories but also complaints and sometimes griping.

I agree with the letter “Complaining the American way” (Aug. 20). We all have a right to complain. But in the same sense I feel that soldiers need to be aware that they signed up for our military knowing the risks. They knew that there was a possibility of going somewhere they wouldn’t want to go and being separated from their friends and families. They also knew that they might be right smack in danger’s way. I hear them complain that they don’t want to be here, etc. But whether or not they want to take responsibility, it was their own doing. I mean no offense to the soldiers who were aware of this, take personal responsibility, and don’t gripe about the situation.

In return for the risk and sacrifice servicemembers have all made, I want to thank them for being here, taking the risk and joining the military. No one really wants to be here, but we are.

I volunteered because I thought it was something I could do for soldiers here rather than sit at home and watch the news. I wanted to be over here surrounded by the people who’ve survived. I wanted to be here to wish them safety or to say thanks and that I’m glad they get to go home. It’s sad to say goodbye, but it feels good seeing the smiles when they know their planes are leaving in just a few hours. Thanks again!

Christina KupitzCamp Virginia, Kuwait

AAFES lacking

As a soldier in Iraq, I must say that I expected more support of troops from those who claim to be our first supporters. AAFES has seriously disappointed me and my fellow troops. “We go where you go” is indeed the overstatement of the year. My base camp outside Baghdad has been very disappointed in AAFES and its service to soldiers.

We receive expired chips and crackers that taste funny, yet we still buy them because we have nothing else to snack on. Some have resorted to buying from Iraqis as opposed to AAFES. Not only are the supplies old, they’re also limited to three or four items per kind of snack or soda. Our only alternatives are Iraqi vendors or care packages that can take two or three weeks to get here.

We’re in Iraq serving our country. Is it too much to ask for AAFES to make life easier by supplying the little things that boost morale? I understand that not everyone has a post exchange. That isn’t saying much because the post exchanges offer so little. But ours is run by soldiers who run to Baghdad International Airport to get supplies and are told what they can and cannot get.

So AAFES doesn’t go where we go. We go where AAFES is. Our chain of command takes care of so much already that it’s almost too much to ask it to also provide us with a PX. AAFES needs to catch up with soldiers and live up to its creed or it can expect no more business from us, even stateside.

Sgt. Anne LeeCamp Dogwood, Iraq

Where's Baldo?

I’m a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, and I’m writing to ask Stars and Stripes editors a big favor. Stripes should please add the popular and funny ‘Baldo’ comic strip to its comics. I don’t care much about getting faster mail delivery, better living conditions or a redeployment date. But I’d love to one day open up my Stripes and be able to read my favorite comic strip after missing it for more than seven months.

Spc. David GarciaCamp Cedar II, Iraq

Unit stop loss

This is in response to the letter “Follow the oath” (Aug. 9). Although I agree with the writer regarding soldiers fulfilling their obligations without complaint, I feel that some soldiers have a legitimate reason to ask when they will be allowed to go home.

I refer specifically to the unit stop loss currently keeping guardsmen and reservists here in Iraq. For those not familiar with this policy, it states that Reserve component soldiers cannot ETS or retire even if they have no continuing military obligation. Active-duty units are sending ETS eligible soldiers home while Guard and Reserve soldiers with jobs are forced to stay.

I served proudly here in Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991 with the 82nd Airborne Division. I served in the National Guard until 1998. After Sept. 11, 2001, I re-enlisted under the Army’s “try one” program for one year, during which I served on active duty. Six months later I was called and told that I was under the aforementioned stop loss and had to report.

Now, with the war “over,” I’m still not allowed to exit the service. As a police officer, I know that my department is paying thousands of dollars in overtime to cover my absence. I “followed the oath” and will always be proud. But even the soldiers mentioned in the letter were allowed to go home at the end of their tours.

Sgt. Dean R. AlexanderBaghdad, Iraq

Cost of gas

Everybody in Europe should face toward Heidelberg, Germany, and extend a salute to the writer of the thoughtful letter “Gas prices not transparent” (Aug. 17). Like most of us, his subordinates are cheering him, though I doubt the same can be said of AAFES headquarters officials and other senior military leaders.

This is the only time I can recall a senior military officer ever publicly questioning another high-ranking officer’s explanation of policy-making rationale that affects so many people. The writer dared to rock the boat.

I believe AAFES’s explanation of its gasoline pricing is, at best, weak. If more senior military officials publicly speak out about this serious issue, Maj. Gen. Kathyrn Frost will be forced to ask her high-powered senior executives these questions: “Are you being completely honest with me?” “What are you doing to rectify gasoline prices overseas?” And more importantly, “What’s most important to you: AAFES’s net profits or the welfare of our captive audiences overseas?”

I doubt if anyone overseas is looking for a favored break when it comes to AAFES pricing. All we want is equitable treatment with our stateside brethren. So senior officers should let AAFES know their thoughts regarding gasoline pricing and other important issues.

Doug MooreWeilerbach, Germany

Keep heads up

After reading countless letters to the editor from complaining soldiers, two things come to my mind: First, we all volunteered to join the Army. Second is the Code of Conduct.

I’m proud to serve in the Army. It’s my duty to protect American citizens’ freedoms. Patriotism is not just a word. It’s a duty that I live by. I humbly thank each soldier who I’ve served with and also those who I haven’t met. They should keep their heads up and be proud of what they’re accomplishing here.

Staff Sgt. Suzanne ThomasonCamp Spearhead, Kuwait

August 30

Water letter response

I’m responding to the letter “Water solution” (Aug. 23). I’m 11 years old. My dad is Staff Sgt. Hollingsworth, and he’s in Baghdad.

I disagree with the letter because:

1) A soldier is a grown man in the military fighting for our country, and a baby is a young person who can’t act or think by itself. Grown men shouldn’t be “weaned” from a water bottle. They can drink from anything they want.

2) I agree that soldiers didn’t have bottled water in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They didn’t have it in World War I either. Bottled water was not invented at that time. But if it had been, then I’m sure that soldiers would have wanted to drink it.

3) The writer said soldiers should only drink from the water buffalo and that two bottles of water a day aren’t needed. I agree that the water bottles aren’t needed. They are wanted. It’s OK that they’re only wanted. The soldiers deserve bottled water because they’re fighting for the freedom of others. The soldiers are risking their lives. They sleep on cots and don’t get to eat good meals. So the least we can do is give them bottled water.

The writer thinks they don’t deserve bottled water at all. I think they should get four bottles a day if that’s what they want. I know that my dad is hot and tired most of the time, and I feel sad about that. I think he deserves water that doesn’t have to have Kool-Aid mix added to be enjoyed.

Autumn HollingsworthFriedberg, Germany

Children suffer

My husband has been deployed since February, just weeks after our first child was born. My husband was only able to see our son for the first week of his life. At the time, we were in the States for the holidays. I get so upset with the whole situation. I hear people griping. I hear people say, “They know what they signed up for.” In the end, I don’t know what to feel.

I read letters saying how much this all hurts, and it does, especially for all of us who have children caught in the middle of this whole ordeal. The children are the ones who truly suffer. No matter how long our soldiers are gone, no amount of money can change the fact that they’re gone. It just seems that we’re doing a lot of talking and there’s no action.

Our leaders — and God knows I support them — say they’re trying to get the soldiers who’ve been there the longest rotated out. Well, I see all these soldiers around us coming home, but not my husband’s group. I’m so happy for the children who get to see their parents. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But a small part of me is so angry at them that I just can’t watch.

I don’t understand why the soldiers left back for rear detachment are single. Why not leave those who have families sitting in a foreign country? Yes, we could just go back to the States. But what would that say about us? Are we weak? No. Can we not afford it? No. We stick it out because we’re hanging onto the small chance that our fathers, mothers, husbands or wives will get word that they’ll be coming home. Call me a wishful thinker, but the redeployment issue seems to change every month, and the way I see it, it’s bound to change for the better.

So all those who are left behind and waiting for their soldiers to come home should stay strong and never give up hope. We love them all, soldiers and civilians. We’re all Americans!

Brianne RichDarmstadt, Germany

Wrong reasons

I’m writing in response to the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24). As a fellow Reserve component soldier, my advice to the writer is to get out of the National Guard. We don’t want or need soldiers of his caliber.

I know that it’s hard in Iraq. I know that he has a family and a job and misses many other aspects of his civilian life. But who doesn’t? What makes him special? I guess a specialist in the National Guard is fully qualified to decide which units need to be in which theater and at what time.

The writer said that many National Guard soldiers are “involved with organizations such as the Cub Scouts.” Well, maybe the writer should get out of the Guard and go join the Cub Scouts.

As a member of the National Guard deployed to the Balkans, I know what it’s like to leave a new wife and a great civilian job. But not once has my wife or I ever doubted my mission or call-up. I know it’s not Iraq, but we, too, have been away from home for more than eight months with only more deployments on the horizon. People who join the National Guard only to earn some extra money or learn a job skill are obviously in it for the wrong reasons.

Staff Sgt. Joshua N. FryCamp McGovern, Bosnia

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