September 14

Who are the best?

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 14 Who are the best? Keep up the fire Dentists in Kuwait What they signed up for ‘The Waaaah Page’ Care packagesSeptember 15 Numbers game Native Americans in military Free speech Great disservice Easy to criticizeSeptember 16 Job never changes No self-glory Luxuries in Iraq Extension Promotions Taken for grantedSeptember 17 Becoming frantic Make best of deployment Earned right to complain Experience means somethingSeptember 18 ‘Army of None’ AAFES does great job Lynch bashing Separation is separation I rememberSeptember 19 Redeployment briefings Many not complainers Ready to serve Mission alwaysSeptember 20 Focus on mission Complaints legitimate Combat pay Tired of Lynch Too much Lynch coverage

LetterLetterBeing the best. This seems to be a big issue with all U.S. forces in Iraq. Which unit suffered more? Which one will have the longest rotation? Which one will go home first? Which unit is the best? I’ll tell readers who’s the best. Better yet, I’ll tell them which soldier, Marine, sailor, airman, reservist, guardsman, and Department of Defense employee is best.

It’s the individual who came out and admitted he was a coward, but is still in Baghdad serving with honor. It’s the person whose job it is to re-enlist individuals. It’s the one who puts aside all feelings of self to explain how wise a choice it is to stay in the military when he himself has had it with the situation at hand. It’s the person who will never have the opportunity to be a young adult. It’s the person who doesn’t question any order and just responds “yes” to every command. It’s the person who has left so many loved ones behind in sacrificing for the betterment of others. It’s the person who puts aside all his physical pain to keep on going from one day to the next.

We’re forgetting one thing that makes us the best: we’re U.S. military forces in readiness. Do I really care which unit is the best? No, I don’t. What I do know is that these forces in readiness are the best people for this situation here in Iraq. I’m honored to have been serving with them during this time when our military forces may bring peace and freedom to others.

These are the ones who are the best: soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, reservists, guardsmen, and DOD employees. They are the ones who will go home first. They are the ones who will have the longest rotations, and the ones who have suffered most.

I’ve spent seven years in the Marines and now four in the Army. I’ve seen all these individuals at work. There isn’t a better trained military force in the world.

Now readers know who are the best.

Staff Sgt. Richard SchottBaghdad, Iraq

Keep up the fire

LetterLetterThe warriors on the front should keep up the fire! I thank them for continually reminding us that freedom is not free. Their patriotism and dedication has remained steadfast while a growing number of others, civilian and military, have forsaken these things with the return of their flavored coffee and pop culture trends. This call to arms hasn’t changed anything for some. For others, it’s been a life crisis.

A distinction must be made between soldiers and warriors. Warriors come in all shapes and sizes. They speak and carry themselves with a purpose at all times. In a black and white world, they would appear gray. Whether special or silent or just a grunt on a mission, there’s a difference between soldiers and warriors. There are far too many to list, I’m afraid. Warriors’ complaints are usually that of inefficiency and the lack of quality training.

Warriors’ values and moral code may differ from those of other soldiers as well. Duty is not looked at as service to country. Rather, it’s simply a way of life. The love of family is measured in quality, not quantity, to which their families are well-accustomed. Their passion lies with the job and/or mission success measured by battlefield results.

This passion can lead to trouble when weak leadership is confronted. Political correctness and ego stroking are on a constant collision course with warriors’ passion. Praise is not required. Warriors loath the combat patch and the bumper stickers which display service records. Creature comforts, post exchanges and the infamous bottled water are the furthest things from their minds. Warriors would rather get their own beans and bullets just to avoid the bureaucracy and attitudes from the service and support cast.

Pride in their work and their soldiers’ work often relieves the worries of the countless pay and record discrepancies that no one seems capable of resolving. Gratitude and appreciation from their soldiers often takes the place of the chevron or leaf they didn’t get, or the college classes they never got to finish. Warriors don’t post hours of operation plaques outside their doors, and they go through more battle dress uniforms than most do boot polish.

So again, the warriors on the front or in the rear should continue to remain true to their calling and pay no attention to the countless op-ed, feel good, whining media pieces discussing the despair of those who still don’t respect the rifle, or to those career-minded individuals who spent most of their careers avoiding deployments and praying they’d never be counted on.

I thank the warriors for being what they are.

Staff Sgt. David W. RichardsonVilseck, Germany

Dentists in Kuwait

LetterLetterI read with interest and dismay the article “Dentist’s military drills keep Seabees smiling” (July 20). It was well done and I enjoyed it. But I also felt that it slighted my unit and its 25 dentists who still remain in Kuwait and Iraq under rather harsh conditions. Because of the inaccuracies, we need Stripes’ help to get our credibility back.

The 502nd Dental Company is one of six modification table of organization and equipment dental units in the Army. Since its arrival in Kuwait, it has reached the 7,000 patient mark. In fact, we’ve seen several referrals from the dentist at Ali Al Salim Air Base. We have nine specialists in the country, ranging from oral surgeons to gum surgeons, and one root canal specialist.

We are the 502nd Dental Company (Area Support) out of Fort Hood, Texas. The “War Eagles” are the only designated “Super Company” in the continental United States or the European theater. Our sister unit, the 561st out of Vilsek, Germany, is under the capable command of Lt. Col. Roger Fiedler. Their 15 dentists are currently at Balad, Iraq, weathering nightly mortar attacks. They’ve recently established a permanent facility that’s seeing an average of 60 patients per day. Our superb command team consists of Col. Russ Czerw, our immediate supervisor with the 93rd Medical Battalion, and Col. Donald Gagliano, who commands the 30th Medical Brigade out of Heidelberg, Germany.

We’d like to invite the reporter who wrote the article back to meet the dedicated troops of the “Five-O-Deuce” for a follow-up story to amend some statements. This would include, “(Lt. Jose) Avila is one of three military dentists in Kuwait.” We take exception to that. Our 7,000 patient visits have included more than 75 wisdom teeth, 250 other extractions, 30 root canals from start to finish, a partial denture made, esthetics completed, and mouth guards processed. We’re also prevention oriented and perform about 100 cleanings per month. One of our dentists, who also teaches Personal Finance for the University of Maryland, is also offering investment seminars to troops.

We’re thankful when we’re able to receive a Stars and Stripes about once or twice a week. But we’d like to assist Stripes in improving the accuracy of its reporting. We’re here to serve. If Stripes would like to write a story about my fine troops, it should please feel free to contact me. Stripes won’t be sorry.

Lt. Col. Jamie P. Houston, DMDCamp Virginia, Kuwait

What they signed up for

LetterLetterI’ve been in the Army for a little more than six years now. I’m 24 years old. I’m part of the 16th Corps Support Group from Hanau, Germany. We’ve been in Iraq since February and are scheduled to leave sometime early next year.

It just kills me every time I hear someone say that they didn’t sign up to come here. They should go read their contracts again. In essence, we all signed up to come here. Any soldier faces the possibility of being deployed to a foreign country for wartime and peacekeeping missions.

My wife and I are in different units. She just got back from a five-month deployment to Israel shortly before I came out here. I’m supposed to be out here until next year. Then she may be coming back out before I leave. As much as we both hate knowing that, we both realize that being separated like this would be a possibility.

I know that those who just joined for college money didn’t get one sheet saying, “If you want college money, sign here.” I distinctly remember something like a thousand forms I had to sign. If something involves peoples lives, it would behoove them to read everything.

I’d like to thank all my fellow soldiers who’ve had to suffer through being here and enduring back-to-back deployments and not complaining like some soldiers who thought they were exempt from war because of their status.

As for the guys who “didn’t sign up for this,” it’s OK for them to say that they don’t want to be out here. It’s OK to say that they hate being here. But if they want to say it’s not what they signed up for, they should read their contracts again. Signing up for this is exactly what they did.

Sgt. Robert PeopleCamp Dogwood, Iraq

'The Waaaah Page'

LetterLetterHaving served a combined 15 years in the Marines and Army National Guard, I have only two things to say:

1. The letters to the editor page needs a more appropriate title, something along the lines of “The Waaaah Page.”

2. To all the whiners who’ve written to “The Waaaah Page,” I say, “Waaaah!”

1st Lt. G. S. WilsonBaghdad, Iraq

Care packages

LetterLetterI’m writing about all the care packages that soldiers get and what they should do with things like toothpaste, brushes and other stuff instead of throwing it all away. They should donate the items to the Iraqi people and schools and retirement homes back in the States.

I know of at least 80 care packages at Camp New York, Kuwait, and other camps containing things like puzzle books, soap and candy. They would help a lot of people, so I say we should donate these things. Soldiers giving things to the Iraqi people would help build trust all around. I know I’d donate extra things.

Sgt. Perry HughesCamp New York, Kuwait

September 15

Numbers gameLetterLetter 1

LetterLetterI’m responding to the letter “Children suffer” (Aug. 30). Being a parent myself, I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that children are the ones who truly suffer. Take my son, for instance. He was born in November and two months later, my Reserve unit was called up again. (We served a year deployment.) After being home for 90 days, his father and I both are serving in Iraq and Kuwait.

I’ve missed major milestones in my son’s life, with more moments to come because we don’t know when we’re going home. Does he know us? No. Do I think he misses us? No. Will I bond with my child when I get home? I pray daily that I will.

I’ve read letters that said we volunteered for this possibility. But does my volunteering mean that I’m not allowed the opportunity to bond with my child?

My chain of command told me that my six-weeks of maternity leave were up, so therefore I had to report to duty. When I got to my Main Operations Base station, I was told that I was allowed four months to be with my child. So I was given the option to go home for two more months and then be activated with another unit from anywhere in the United States to go anywhere in the world for any length of time, or be deployed with my original unit for one year. I wasn’t told that if I went home that I could catch up with my unit. (We left numerous soldiers back who have joined us.)

To me, it’s always a numbers game in the military. Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. But some of the military’s tactics need to change.

Sgt. Stacie LockhartNavistar, Kuwait

Native Americans in military

LetterLetterThe war with Iraq has helped me to better understand my own life. I’ve seen many people die, including one of my fellow soldiers. I’ve heard of other soldiers being killed. War is cruel, yet we do it to make freedom. Life has different meanings for different people, but we’re all the same. We’re all human beings full of hope, joy, love and great passion to live. That’s what I see in my life.

I was in the desert after air assaulting from Camp Pennsylvania into unknown territory ahead of all main troops. It hadn’t even been a day, and we got the news that a convoy had been ambushed. I didn’t know who was attacked or where it happened. But that alone made my views change and realize that life is up for grabs.

We got into Baghdad and got our first Stars and Stripes. I read the article on the ambush. I saw that the first female U.S. servicemember to be killed was a Native American of Hopi descent named Pfc. Lori Piestewa. This made me realize that the Army sure is multicultural. Yet the only time people recognize minorities is when something bad happens. As in Piestewa’s case, I don’t think the Army recognizes the Native American population.

We recently found out that another Native American passed away. It happened in Germany. He was a young man who had barely experienced life. He lost it all, killed by two very immature men. Again Stars and Stripes recognized a Native American in a bad situation. His name was Clint Lamebear.

Why isn’t diversity recognized within the Army? Not just Native Americans, but other races, too. A prime example: We’ve forgotten about our “Windtalkers.” The Japanese never broke the Navajo code during World War II.

I’d like to get feedback to this letter if possible, and also any news of organizations supporting Native Americans in the military. I also want to pay my respects to the families that lost two great soldiers.

I, too, am a Native American from Santo Domingo Pueblo, N. M. I’m with the 101st Airborne Division’s Screaming Eagles from Fort Campbell, Ky. I’m assigned to the 5th Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. I work as a line medic with Company B, 3rd Platoon. I’ve been with them from the very beginning of the war on terrorism, from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Spc. Pete TenorioIraq

Free speech

LetterLetterIt’s with no small measure of amusement that I’ve followed the ongoing battle between those who complain and those who believe we should all “suck it up and drive on.” Every single soldier, sailor, Marine, airman and Coast Guardsman in Iraq and Kuwait is making a sacrifice to be here. Some sacrifices are greater than others, but we don’t get to choose the time or the magnitude of that sacrifice.

I recommend that the people who ask us to remember those who served in World War II to find and read Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front.” They’ll find a hilarious account of two cartoon infantrymen complaining their way across Europe. Mauldin’s “Willie and Joe” exercised their constitutionally guaranteed right to complain throughout the war, and perhaps sparked some positive changes along the way.

As for those who scold us to “follow the oath,” I recall swearing to uphold a Constitution that holds free speech up as a pillar of our society, not something to be criticized or trodden upon. Combat is not the place to question orders, but certainly the pages of a newspaper representing a readership willing to die to defend a free press has room for a complaint or two.

I’ve always been impressed with the balance that Stars and Stripes represents. It’s not a typical spewer of the party line, but a true newspaper. I’m glad people have a voice here. Otherwise, the Army would think that mail service is outstanding and that living conditions are uniformly excellent throughout the theater.

Sgt. Joseph MartinKarbala, Iraq

Great disservice

LetterLetterThose who complain about our living standards in Iraq commit a great disservice to those who have gone before us. Complaints mock fallen soldiers, both past and present. Hundreds have died here in Iraq, and many more will die. Thousands died in Vietnam. Must I compare their living conditions to ours?

I have a wife and two sons. I miss them dreadfully. But those who marched before me had it worse. Hundreds of thousands died in World War II. Must I compare our living conditions to theirs? World War II veterans fought for years with no end in sight.

Complaining soldiers need to discover their heritage, borne by men and women who have suffered pain of both body and mind. Complaining is not just a disservice but a mockery of those who’ve gone before us. We are soldiers doing our duty. Thank God we don’t have to do it living in the mud. Let us dishonor our predecessors no longer! Stop the complaining!

Spc. Issac WestbrookBaghdad, Iraq

Easy to criticize

LetterLetterIt’s easy for someone to sit in the comfort of a building while reading Stars and Stripes and think, wow, our troops in Iraq are not living that bad. But to write the letter “Quit sniveling” (Aug. 12) to a newspaper that we all read is another story.

I’ve served at Camp Doha, Kuwait, and I can assure readers that it’s a five-star hotel compared to the place we’re living in. Yet the writer can muster up the courage to write a letter about all the sniveling going on in Iraq while he sits in a nice, air-conditioned pad. Meanwhile, the rest of the soldiers and noncommissioned officers he wrote about live in the desert underneath camouflage nets with no air conditioning.

The writer is one of those people who lowers my soldiers’ morale from a distance. The reason NCOs here complain about living conditions isn’t for themselves. They do it for their soldiers since they place their soldiers’ needs above their own. Maybe the writer can stop, think, turn his finger around and point it at himself.

We’ll be in Iraq for an undisclosed amount of time, and we’ll do the jobs presented to us. But remember one thing: We’re doing our jobs and doing them with the littlest of things.

Sgt. Brian MillerIraq

September 16

Job never changes

LetterLetterI’m currently deployed to Iraq on what started as a four-month deployment and will most likely end as a one-year tour. It’s unfortunate to be in a country where people truly need help, yet others don’t want the help or the change. In my five months here in Iraq, I’ve seen change for the good. I only hope that it continues. That will make our job here seem that much more important.

It’s easy for people back home to think that we don’t need to be here helping these people. But they don’t see the suffering and poverty that this country has endured for the past three decades. Many people here welcome us. Those who don’t hide and wait for their chance to strike, hoping to stop these people from having a better life.

I talk with my soldiers and even those who are not under me. Some days their morale is high. Other days it’s not. Some of them came straight to Iraq from basic and advanced individual training with little chance to see their families. Others like myself were pulled from other units to fill positions. We also had very little time to prepare our families for the deployment.

The one really good thing that we get related to morale is mail, but not much else. We’ve been doing the same thing for the last four months, and it will probably be another four months before our mission changes.

We’re getting closer to learning this place we call home. There’s a lot of tension among us from time to time. I think it’s caused by the job we’re doing. It never changes. It’s the same thing day in and day out. I think that everyone over here right now is probably going through the same things, so I want to put the word out to those of us who need to remember what it is we do and why.

Brian P. MillerIraq

No self-glory

LetterLetterI read the glowing letter “Military police in Iraq” (Aug. 26) praising the 300th Military Police Company. It was gushy and self-promoting. It was written by a lieutenant assigned to the 300th. Since this forum is being used for self-praise, let me retort.

The 105th Military Police Company (Nevada Army National Guard) is located just above the 300th on Main Support Route Tampa. The difference is that when people enter the 105th area of operations, their chances of coming under attack rise tenfold. In our AO we’ve had ambushes, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and drive-by shootings that were fatal to both U.S. soldiers and U.N. civilians. And that’s not to mention the now daily improvised explosive device attacks which have proven fatal in too many cases. Our base camp has also become a target for mortars.

The 300th has a platoon here in our camp, and its members patrol at night. But they have the luxury of up-armored Humvees. We don’t have these, and everyone here knows the result of an IED attack on a soft Humvee, as we’ve said farewell to our brother Sgt. Heath McMillian.

The bottom line is this: Writers shouldn’t try to glorify themselves on these pages. We’ve got a job to do here, and for some it’s far more dangerous than for others. We’re MPs and we’re all cops.

Sgt. Jeremy LewisIraq

Luxuries in Iraq

LetterLetterI’m responding to articles and comments about long deployments to Iraq and low morale. I’d like to raise a point that’s not considered much. In the last four months, I’ve observed how several coalition partners and civilian agencies have luxuries beyond those of military units. They stay in luxury hotels and have things like air-conditioned sport utility vehicles, high-class meals, drinking parties, and all the gloating that goes with it.

I’m not complaining as much about the gap in luxury items as I am about the gloating and inhospitable nature behind it. A boost in morale would result if quality time were spent in opening house and helping each other keep our spirits up.

John LeFurgeBaghdad, Iraq


LetterLetterThis is in response to the letter “Desert-bound eventually” (Aug. 21). The writer asked if commanding officers, government bureaucrats, or both are to blame for resentment and low morale in Iraq and Kuwait.

In the case of my battalion, most everyone feels our commander is to blame. He sent us out to Camp Spearhead, Kuwait, roughly two months before we were actually supposed to be here to take the place of another battalion in the group. We’ve currently been deployed for 120 days on orders which state, “Not to exceed 179 days unless directed by commander PERSCOM or higher authority.”

Now it’s been stated that our commander is trying to extend our stay here for a full year. Why? We already have replacements from another installation scheduled to report in September to take our places. Why does our battalion commander seem so determined to extend our stay instead of just rotating us out after our six months have expired? The request for extension was denied once already. I hope to see it happen on future requests for extensions.

Spc. George GaynesCamp Spearhead, Kuwait


LetterLetterI’m with the 878th Engineering Battalion, and I’ve never seen the good old boy system so strong since I’ve been here in Iraq. Since my unit was activated on March 15, people who had the points and were in line to get promoted disappeared from the list. People who got attached to this unit were suddenly getting promoted over people who had been here.

I think it’s unfair to us soldiers that fellow soldiers can use this deployment to manipulate the system. The good old boy system is still alive in the military. I’m but one soldier speaking out about these injustices, but believe me, there are more.

After this deployment is over and people’s expiration, term of services, are up a lot of them are going to let go of 12, 14 and 16 years of service because of this corruption. Who wants to stay in a unit in which if one isn’t in a certain clique he doesn’t get promoted?

I think the good old boy system should be done away with and people should get promoted because they deserve it, not because they belong to a certain clique.

Spc. Richard WilsonTallil, Iraq

Taken for granted

LetterLetterI agree with the letter “Promotion system” (Aug. 27). The promotion system is really unfair.

This is my second deployment. I’ll be here for another year, like my year tour in Bosnia. Can we get promotion points for deployments? I know a lot of soldiers who have gotten promoted by just sitting and doing correspondence courses. They go to school and don’t do their jobs.

I just lost 48 points because they took out military occupational specialty-related schools that I’ve been in. That’s all the schooling I got, and they took it out. This is disappointing. I’ve been doing my job and doing other people’s jobs. I’ve learned a lot in cross training. If I’m not busy, I do other things to gain knowledge. Can I get points for cross training too?

I should get my E-6 quick. Being a 52D is no joke. I’m in a killer MOS. If I’m on other MOSs, I should be E-7 by now. 52Ds are on the move here in Iraq. We’re an asset. We power up buildings, tents, dining facilities, tactical operations centers, etc. We feel we’re taken for granted.

Maria J. C. BascoIraq

September 17

Becoming frantic

LetterLetterI’m a National Guardsman for the 105th Personnel Service Division out of Lincoln, Neb. My unit is stationed at Camp Wolf, Kuwait. We were deployed on Feb. 2. We arrived in Jordan in April, and half of us were moved a week later to Kuwait to throw mail. When our unit came back together in June we had a fragmentary order to go home. But the order was revoked, and we ended up replacing an active Army unit. We were told then that our return date was Dec. 1. We now hear that we’ll be here for a full year. We’re under 3rd Personnel Command.

My unit works in-processing and redeploying for theater. We’re doing a great job and working hard to treat each soldier with care and consideration. They’ve spread our 44 soldiers out to replace an active unit that had more than 50 soldiers and to replace a National Guard unit that had more than 60 soldiers. We’re running 24/7 operations for these two units, and four of our soldiers are also on the redeployment side working validation for another unit. We’re spread so thin and working so hard.

The knocks on our morale are devastating. We’re physically able, but mentally and spiritually we’re dying. If Army National Guard retention is anything of importance, we need to have faith in our government and leaders. But we can’t see anyone taking a stand for soldiers.

This isn’t a simple board game of “Axis and Allies.” This is a game with real people with families. We’re not robots. There are students out here missing more than a year of college. Officers say that PERSCOM (Personnel Command) refers to moving soldiers as “drug deals.” You do this for me and I’ll make sure your soldiers go home, etc.

My duty is to serve my country despite her faults. I won’t be able to ETS while here, and I accept that. I’m here to serve out of obligation and duty. But are there any checks and balances on those making decisions here? Everyone keeps saying it’s up in the air, including those responsible for deciding who goes where. It feels as if every decision is off the cuff. There should be plans in place and decisions made before the rubber hits the road.

We’re slowly becoming frantic. I hear people say that they’re going to begin hurting themselves or others if they can’t go home. The helplessness our soldiers are feeling is indescribable. It’s past the point of, “Suck it up and drive on.” We just want somewhere to drive on to.

Sgt. Leanne DuffyCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Make best of deployment

LetterLetterI’ve been in Iraq for six months, and every issue of Stars and Stripes that I’ve received is filled with complaint after complaint. I understand that’s what lower enlisted soldiers do. That’s the way they relieve stress and let their leaders know what they’re having problems with. But I don’t understand the sergeants. I call them sergeants because that’s exactly what they are. If this deployment drives them out, good. We don’t need sergeants. We need noncommissioned officers.

A one-year deployment is difficult. I should know. This is my second one in the short time I’ve been in. Just like my first deployment, this one has its hardships. But complaining and putting dirty laundry in the streets isn’t going to help. What’s going to help is coming together and making the best that we can of the situation.

With a deployment, things aren’t going to be exactly the way the complainers want them to be. At first things are going to be unbearable. But over time it will get better. The complainers have to give their leaders time to assess the situation, figure out what needs to be fixed, and prioritize when they’ll be fixed. Getting the Internet, phones and post exchanges aren’t going to be on the top of that list. Saving lives and getting the mission done will be.

Lower enlisted soldiers complain because they see sergeants complain. By no means am I saying one doesn’t have a right to complain. But as NCOs we have a responsibility, and complaining to a newspaper or in the presence of our soldiers isn’t setting the example we need to set.

So it’s time for sergeants to put up or shut up. They should read the creed, remember the creed and live by the creed. Otherwise they should get out and move on. I’m tired of hearing their sniveling. The Army is not the Boy Scouts or summer camp. It’s their job, and some of them need to start doing it. If they came in for the college money, so be it. They should do their time and move on.

Staff Sgt. Michael J. StrawTikrit, Iraq

Earned right to complain

LetterLetterI’m tired of all the active-duty military members telling all the guardsmen and reservists to suck it up and that we signed up for this.

No, we didn’t sign up for this. When I signed my contract to join the National Guard, I was fully aware that I stood the chance of being federally activated. But I don’t remember reading anywhere in my contract about back-to-back deployments for more than two years. I also don’t recall reading in my contract that being a guardsman or reservist subjects one to fewer morale supplies, simple military supplies, halfway updated equipment, and doing without basic necessities that active-duty components such as the 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division, and 4th Infantry Division are privy to.

We joined the Reserve and National Guard to be part time. Six-month and maybe even one-year deployments are acceptable for a part-time force. But deployments of more than a year are definitely not, especially when there are many active-duty units that have yet to deploy since Sept. 11, 2001.

For both of my unit’s deployments, we were called up and out of the state within a week. I twice left my house, family, career, school, and everything else in my life and placed the burden on the people around me. I’ve lost more money in the last two years than most soldiers make in two years.

Readers should picture their salaries being cut in half with their bills remaining the same. Thank God I don’t have children. I can’t even begin to fathom the difficulties that kids would bring.

Active-duty personnel signed up for this to be their sole, full-time occupation and life. Maybe they should deal with the fact that guardsmen and reservists are tired of picking up their slack. We have earned every right to complain.

Spc. Rustun K. SchackCamp Caldwell, Iraq

Experience means something

LetterLetterI’d like to respond to the letter “Promotion system” (Aug. 27). The writer is a soldier who said he spends so much time in the field that he can’t get promoted, and that other soldiers with degrees are promoted ahead of him. The writer also said he feels that his experience means nothing.

If the leadership in the writer’s unit was doing their job of leading, training and caring for their soldiers, he wouldn’t have this problem. At every military installation there’s an office for personnel seeking equal opportunity. It’s the Equal Employment Opportunity program, and every unit is supposed to have someone to discuss equal opportunity rights.

There’s an office here in Kuwait, as well as the Office of Inspector General if this soldier isn’t afforded his right to due process.

The writer’s experience means something, and he shouldn’t ever feel that it doesn’t.

Sgt. 1st Class James FieldsKuwait

September 18

'Army of None'

LetterLetterI’m assigned to the 211th Combat Training Center and Army Reserve Transportation Company. I’m currently in Kuwait. Under the new “one year on ground” announcement, we’re looking at a 19-month activation — if we’re lucky. We were activated at below 20 percent strength in January, and as a result spent five months active before we were “on ground.”

One thing I find disturbing is that we’re still sending active-duty personnel home after tours of less than eight months. I work where military personnel process out so they can redeploy. A few days ago I asked a captain whose active-duty company was going home how long they’d been in country. He said seven and a half months!

When active-duty soldiers are deployed:

1) They make more money.

2) Their families are taken care of with housing, reliable medical care, etc.

3) Their loved ones are surrounded by the “Army family,” which we reservists only hear about.

When reservists are activated:

1) We lose money and our financial situations deteriorate steadily over time.

2) Our housing is often in jeopardy due to our bad financial situations.

3) Our families get no support, Tricare seems to always experience “hiccups in the system,” and the “Army family” is not in the cities, only on active bases.

So why are reservists activated longer than active-duty, often two times as long? In the years to come, the Army will no doubt feel the consequences of these decisions and the antipathy with which we reservists are regarded. In a few years, when the Army needs to call on reservists and discovers that most of them have ETS’d and few are willing to join, maybe it will admit its mistakes. No. Instead, I think the Army will confront retention in the same tired ways, with a new slogan (perhaps “An Army of None”) and maybe a new hat.

Pfc. Brandon BiegertKuwait

AAFES does great job

LetterLetterI’ve been in the Army for 22 years and am currently stationed in Kuwait. Since I arrived in April, I’ve steadily seen AAFES try to improve its inventory and delivery methods. The writer of the letter “AAFES lacking” (Aug. 29) needs to really take a good look at the people who provide AAFES services. These people are civilians, many of whom are dependents of military or retired military members. Instead of griping about what she doesn’t have, the writer should consider the blessings of what she does have. She should consider herself very fortunate that she has an AAFES located near her that’s staffed by a volunteer who could otherwise be back in the States or at his assignment base living the life of comfort.

It’s unfortunate that there are items that have expired in transit, and I know AAFES will take a look at the situation. But we all have to remember that the time restraints for mail also affect AAFES. It takes time for items to be shipped from the supplier to a warehouse, from the States to Kuwait, and further shipped to remote points like many of our satellite camps and bases across Kuwait and Iraq.

AAFES does go where we go, and I’m very grateful for anything and everything it does for me and the troops. I’ve also experienced having a box of crackers that tasted funny. But instead of using this forum to bash the very people who are trying to serve us the very best they can, the letter writer decided to insult them. My wife often tells me that more flies can be attracted with honey than with vinegar. Anger our AAFES employees, and the writer will see how much she receives.

According to the writer, AAFES should have a stand at every location and every post. Heck, why don’t we just have AAFES set up shop at every mile along the main supply routes just so the writer isn’t inconvenienced.

I think AAFES is doing a great job, and every soldier who gets the privilege of enjoying its services ought to consider themselves very lucky that we have AAFES at our disposal. I’m sorry about the soldiers who don’t have access to AAFES stores. But they should be patient. They’re coming.

Master Sgt. Todd PaiceKuwait

Lynch bashing

LetterLetterThis is in response to the letter “Lynch not hero” (Sept. 11). I don’t think there would be much argument from anyone with knowledge of military history and its heroes that Jessica Lynch isn’t at the top of the list. But we have to remember that Lynch didn’t ask for this.

It was the beginning of the war, and with that came death and destruction. U.S. soldiers were being killed and captured. The extraction of Lynch was seen as a positive point in the conflict, and the media treated it as such. It escalated Lynch’s status from there. She basically became a positive spin on the war and its average soldier.

So although Lynch did sign a huge book deal and was flown home in style, we can’t put the blame on her for her “hero” status. The nation needed a hero and wanted a hero, and the media and military higher-ups were happy to oblige.

I think Vietnam veterans and other veterans who were rightly awarded the Bronze Star, like the letter writer, need not worry about an occasional charity medal like Lynch’s being awarded. Informed and intelligent people know which ones were earned.

Michael BanakFrankfurt, Germany

Separation is separation

LetterLetterI’m writing in response to the letter “Guardsman’s perspective” (Sept. 7). I’d like to offer a viewpoint from an E-6 reservist’s perspective.

I’m currently in Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Forge and have been among the boots on the ground here since February. I’ve been mobilized since January and haven’t seen my friends or family since Jan 2. I know that some of my fellow guardsmen and reservists here have been away from home for more than a year. While I wouldn’t begin to compare the hardships of Bosnia with those in Iraq, there’s no doubt that separation is separation.

If the writer’s family and business can’t sustain a separation of five months, then he may need to re-evaluate his decision to join the National Guard. This is an all-volunteer Army. When I took the oath of enlistment, and when I re-enlisted in April 2002, I knew there was a good chance that I’d be deployed at some point. Looking around and watching the news, I know chances are high that I’ll be deployed again. If the writer isn’t prepared for that, then he needs to consider separating from the Army. This is why we’re here. The writer should suck it up and drive on or ETS.

Staff Sgt. Bryan A. StetzerBosnia

I remember

LetterLetterOn Sept. 11 I cried, as my fellow public service workers died protecting the lives of American citizens. I will remember.

When my fellow soldiers returned from Afghanistan, crippled, I was filled with sorrow. I will remember.

When my wife of four months wept as I went to war, I was sad. I will remember.

As soldiers from my battalion die in combat, I remember.

I remember the day that terrorists attacked my home state, my country and my freedom. Have we forgotten why we’re here? I remember.

I’ve served my county for 21 years, enlisted and commissioned, active and Reserve, through peace and war, and I still remember. I remember that America was attacked and that I’m a soldier. I don’t complain. I serve America, the freest nation in the world. I serve with pride, for I am in the National Guard, and I will defend my country.

Capt. Kirk A. BizubCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

September 19

Redeployment briefings

LetterLetterThis is in response to the letter “Integration will be rushed” (Aug. 20). It was written by a 1st Armored Division soldier regarding redeployment briefs. There is a legitimate need for all soldiers and their families to receive redeployment briefings prior to reunions. The redeployment briefing covers numerous topics that will assist soldiers in effectively adapting to life again with their families. The brief covers the following areas:

1) Feelings associated with the family reunion.

2) Reunion difficulties and stress being completely normal for all family members.

3) Mental, emotional and physical stressors related to the reunion.

4) Warning signs for substance abuse and domestic violence.

5) Warning signs of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

6) How servicemembers’ families may have changed while they were deployed.

7) Appreciating the personal growth for all parties during the time of separation.

8) Common and effective coping methods.

9) Children of different ages and their responses to the parent upon the reunion.

10) Communication, honesty and patience being essential to long-term, successful reunions.

11) Specific roles of mothers and fathers.

12) Intimacy and sex.

13) Single soldier issues.

14) Adjusting back to work in garrison.

15) The “homecoming letdown” being a normal progression of reunions.

16) Referral information for soldiers and their families to receive follow-up support.

The 85th Combat Stress Control Detachment offers these briefings to members of the 4th Infantry Division, who we are supporting. Specifically, my team conducts redeployment briefs to the soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID. There should be a CSC element in the area of 1st AD, which can provide this brief to all soldiers redeploying. If there is no CSC, mental health, or chaplain available to provide this service to 1st AD soldiers, I would be more than happy to e-mail my redeployment power point brief to any medical or support asset in order to make it available to the soldiers. I hope this information will assist the noncommissioned officer and all 1st AD soldiers in their preparation of their joyous reunions home.

Capt. Bobby Sidell, Psy. D.Clinical PsychologistTikrit, Iraq

Many not complainers

LetterLetterHello Stars and Stripes readers. Me and the rest of the boys from the Indiana National Guard want to say hello from Kuwait. We hit ground on Feb. 12. My company, A Company, 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry, was in Iraq from March 27 to May 12. In Iraq we were attached to our sister battalion, the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry.

Next we went to Jordan from May 12 to June 23 and provided base camp security. Our current job is providing base camp security for the air point of departure in Kuwait. This may be our last job, or we may be moved again. Who knows?

Me and the rest of the guys love to read the latest letters from guys who want to go home. It kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? I doubt that any of us would vacation anywhere in this region. Our Bravo Company has been in Baghdad since the beginning. They’re still there with no relief in sight.

I just want to throw our names out there so everyone realizes that the world doesn’t revolve around themselves. There are a lot of soldiers out there who do their jobs day in and day out without complaining.

Many soldiers have written letters asking, “When do I get to go home?” Others have been about how guardsmen are being mistreated, an active-duty soldier whose combat patch is going to be from a Reserve unit (my favorite), and another soldier who wants to know why he doesn’t get something like a Combat Infantry Badge for his job. They just give us all a bad name.

Staff Sgt. James D. AllenCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Ready to serve

LetterLetterThis is for all those serving in the war on terrorism and the Iraq war who do nothing but complain about the elements and ask when they’re going home. What were they doing on Sept. 11, 2001? I was in the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Ft. Eustis, Va., getting ready for our classes to begin. An instructor asked me to come into the office, and I was told to call my unit and prepare to depart for home and assist if needed.

I still didn’t know what was happening or the magnitude. Then my first sergeant told me that I was one of three of the unit’s crew chiefs who had flown the chief of staff, and that I might have to leave class and return home.

I was willing to do what I was asked. It was my duty. I was never called that day, but I still went home on weekends to assist and give my fellow unit members a break from their very busy schedules so they could have some downtime.

Where were the complainers? They signed up freely, just like those who have given their lives in defense of our freedoms. I honor those who have given their lives for me and my family.

My 4-year-old son understands that I might have to go somewhere that I might not come home from. That’s the hardest thing to deal with every day. But I’d do it in a minute so he can grow up in a free country.

Did the complaining servicemembers really read the contracts they signed? Did they understand what they might be called to do for their paychecks and college benefits?

Nearly 13 years ago I went off to Kuwait as a newly married Marine. I didn’t know what I was being sent off to do, but I did what I was ordered to do. I lost several friends and one real close friend. He’ll never see his children grow up because he never returned home to marry his fiancé. I came home, and I remember him daily as I look at pictures of us together and the fun we had.

I remember the smile he gave me as we walked out to our UH-1N. We thought it would be another routine mission, but his helicopter was lost. I was there to bring his body out of the desert to be sent home to his mother.

Unfortunately, right now I’m in a unit that wasn’t sent to the desert. But I still might get the call, and I’m ready, willing and able.

Staff Sgt. Richard McKeeLandstuhl, Germany

Mission always

LetterLetterI guess it’s time for me to put in my two cents. Like most folks here in Iraq, I’m going on my sixth month of being deployed. I’m also in an armor battalion, like one of the noncommissioned officers who complained in a letter about moving and made many other sniveling comments. I sincerely hope the writer’s command has addressed his “concerns” by now. By that, I hope that he’s stood in front of his commander’s desk for a while.

We’re all reminded of the phrase “troops first, mission always.” I’ve seen more of Iraq than probably my own home state, yet we continue our mission. We move because the mission dictates it, and we adapt to our next location and continue the mission. As time and the mission permit, quality-of-life concerns will gradually improve.

My chain of command abides by strict and logical principles. I think our task force has adapted quite well to this climate and the current living conditions.

So if the writer doesn’t like where he’s living or what he eats or drinks, he should do the rest of the Army a favor and ask for a Chapter 15. That’s probably the quickest way short of death to get stateside.

Phil KrolikowskiChief Warrant Officer 3Balad, Iraq

September 20

Focus on mission

LetterLetterWhen I read the Sept. 11 letters to the editor, I was disgusted to see continued griping about Iraq and two letters that basically said to quit griping about the griping.

In the letter “No morale left,” a reservist complained about his deployment lasting more than six months. To him I say, the Army is the Army. We all deployed here for the same mission. There are active units that have been here in Kuwait longer than the writer’s unit. Some of them were fresh home from Afghanistan when they had to ship out again. Yes, the writer might lose his job. But if his civilian job is his top priority, the writer shouldn’t have joined the Reserve. Reservists are soldiers, too. They get no privileges as part-timers. The writer should do his time as a soldier, not a civilian in waiting.

The writer of “Enough already” was right. There’s no single, unified enemy when combating terrorism. Terrorism has been around a long time and will most likely be around forever. But does that mean we should give up fighting it? There are already too many innocent victims to turn back now. I’ll take a year in Iraq or Afghanistan or worse if it means that I’ll never wake up to news of thousands of Americans dying needlessly. Each day we fight is a day we can help prevent that from reoccurring.

I offer my condolences to the writer of “Heard enough.” It’s hard being away from the ones we love, especially in a combat environment. But I can say first-hand that things in Iraq have improved greatly. In early April I lived at a camp in Baghdad that had no running water, scarce Meals, Ready to Eat, open-pit latrines, very limited electricity and no showers. I had to “borrow” couch cushions for the floor because the unit didn’t even have enough cots to sleep on. I visited that camp again last week. Now there are shower trailers, proper latrines, a contractor-run dining facility with air conditioning, and an on-site post exchange. Morale, welfare and recreation is doing its best, alongside commanders and noncommissioned officers, to make life as comfortable as possible for the troops. Iraq’s not a vacation. It’s still a tough mission, but it keeps getting better.

We can’t forget that we’re at war. This is what we GIs are meant to do. It’d be easy for me to complain about missing my wedding date, not knowing when I’ll go home, and riding in a gun truck as disgruntled Iraqis pelted us with rocks. But I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m still alive.

So if everyone wants to keep whining about the hardships of war, they should do me a favor: look in the eyes of a dead soldier’s spouse or parent and tell them how hard it is to be away from home for more than six months. Better yet, they should focus on accomplishing their mission and protecting their buddies.

Spc. Mike W. PetersenKuwait

Complaints legitimate

LetterLetterThis is in regard to my fellow soldiers writing to Stars and Stripes and telling other soldiers to stop complaining.

Complaining is pretty much the only way to get things that are messed up fixed. Do these writers honestly think that soldiers in Vietnam, World War I and World War II didn’t complain? They should be realistic.

Most of us soldiers enlisted of our own free will, and a lot of us love what we do. But there are always going to be complaints. For instance, there have been complaints about water, mail and air conditioning. Those are all legitimate complaints. Those things are what keep soldiers’ morale up. If soldiers are happy, there are fewer accidents, suicides, etc.

Soldiers sitting in Kuwait and main base camps probably have no idea what it’s like being in sector. There is small arms fire and mortar rounds all around 22 hours a day. There are battalions still in Iraq that crossed the berm three hours behind the 3rd Infantry Division.

We still haven’t been given a redeployment date, and we complain about it daily. So the soldiers who write letters about complaining because other soldiers are trying to bring things to our higher-ups attention to get them fixed need to walk a mile in our sector. As for those who are hooah enough not to complain, my company and I will pack up and go home and let them fight this war on their own.

Sgt. Robert ShullBaghdad, Iraq

Combat pay

LetterLetterI’m with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division. We’re currently assigned to Baghdad, Iraq, next to Saddam City. Several of my fellow tankers and I just read an article that infuriated us. Our battalion came here in June and has dealt with numerous conditions. I find it pointless to complain about these conditions because we soldiers aren’t able to change Mother Nature or the way of men in this area. Our soldiers are also unable to change the countless attacks upon our troops.

All troops raised their hands to serve for our country’s freedom. Yet soldiers getting shot at on an almost daily basis should be paid compensation for knowing that they and their companions may be killed.

Troops in past wars were paid for fighting for freedom. So how can our current government propose changing the already established pay chart and regress it to a lower state? What’s with that? How can our government put a price on a man’s life and then take it back? That’s very distasteful.

My company is proud of the freedoms that we’ve secured for the Iraqi people. But in a split second, a battle can always end in my comrades dying.

The proposal to put a price on the heads of my troops and I is a disdainful spit in warfighters’ faces. What’s a soldier’s life worth?

We should be paid for what we fight for — life and freedom for all.

Sgt. Christopher ScrivensSaddam City, Iraq

Tired of Lynch

LetterLetterI’m a soldier stationed in Kuwait, and I’m tired of hearing about Jessica Lynch. Isn’t her 15 minutes of fame up yet?

I’m the son of a Vietnam veteran and a friend of several guys whose fathers were in Vietnam. These are heroes to me.

Lynch was part of a screwup in which her convoy got lost, and America is making her into a hero. Where have our values gone? Where is our sense of direction?

I think Lynch should donate the $1 million from her book deal to the families of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Vietnam War, or to the children of soldiers killed in Iraq and Kuwait.

I know Lynch suffered as a POW. But she didn’t suffer any more than those in Vietnam POW camps or her fellow soldiers over here. At least Lynch is alive, thanks to heroes who have basically remained nameless.

Sgt. Terrance P. Martin IIKuwait

Too much Lynch coverage

LetterLetterI’m writing about all the Jessica Lynch media coverage. The media is making such a big deal about this. Granted, being a prisoner of war is a big issue. But the media is blowing it way out of proportion.

Lynch deserves to be awarded and recognized for what she went through and toughing it out. But no one has said hardly anything about the other soldiers who were with Lynch, and especially the soldiers who died with her. What about them?

Lynch was a female soldier. But the main word here is soldier. I’ve always been taught that, male or female, a soldier is a soldier. They’re all expected to perform as such. So why don’t we hear about the other soldiers who were with Lynch and suffered through the same ordeal? Why aren’t they getting a book deal or $1 million for a movie?

I and other soldiers are tired of hearing about Lynch and not her fellow soldiers who were also POWs, and most of all those who were killed in action during the war. They should receive the recognition and respect they deserve for giving their lives for their country.

Staff Sgt. Richard BelangerBaghdad, Iraq

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