July 20

Attitude appalling

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

July 20 Attitude appalling World of absurd Military manpower Adventure ends Offended soldierJuly 21 Weekend warriors Thanks for mail Stop bashing governmentJuly 22 Supports husband Airport terminal Closed terminal Promoting democracyJuly 23 No phones, Internet BBC news Access denied Guardsman insulted PromotionsJuly 24 Ranting writers Iraq not so badJuly 25 Where are replacements? Abysmal mail service First Amendment Mail not to standard Reality checkJuly 26 Respect for Iraqis Mail handlers Make mail suggestions Credit for all Mail morale booster

This is in response to the letter “All is not well and good” (July 11). I feel with, not for, the writer and his problem. I, too, was deployed when my first child was born. I understand how frustrating that can be. The writer pointed out that he’s a noncommissioned officer. He also referred to the duties and responsibilities of a noncommissioned officer. He wrote, “I am supposed to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to my soldiers.”

I suggest that this NCO again learn the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer. When reading his letter, the first line comes to mind: “No one is more professional than I.” The unprofessional attitude that this NCO displayed in his letter is appalling. What about the Army values? Selfless service comes to mind.

If the writer’s command saw fit to decline his request for leave while he’s deployed to a combat area, so be it. Who is the writer to question the decisions of the officers and NCOs in his command? It makes me uneasy to see an NCO with such a poor attitude. He obviously has no respect for those appointed over him in leading our nation’s finest soldiers in combat.

“Heaven forbid someone ask me to re-enlist,” the writer said. I hope he’s not asked. The Army needs professional NCOs, not someone who’s unprofessional, self-centered and unfit to lead our soldiers. As a sergeant, the writer has the most active role in influencing soldiers because he’s a “first line leader.”

The writer should stop, step back and take a good, long look at himself. He should make corrections as needed and move on. If the writer feels that he cannot provide purpose, direction and motivation to his soldiers, he should let his platoon sergeant know. I’m sure he could find some other NCO who would gladly lead them. What the writer is doing is his job. It’s what he signed up to do. It was the writer’s choice, and he made it. Being in the Army is not all garrison duty and college money.

Dale HarrisonDarmstadt, Germany

World of absurd

Two recent letters to the editor have taken things to the world of the absurd.

In “Bush not in Iraq” (July 13), the writer seemed to be upset that President Bush was in the National Guard and not in Vietnam. This is true, and how he got a rare position in the National Guard is still open to interpretation. But at least Bush served. Maybe the writer forgot that Bush volunteered to go to Vietnam but was refused. We also need to remember that the military in the 1970s was a draft military, not the volunteer military force we have today. No one forces a person to enlist in today’s military. Maybe the writer could also explain when the United States has used weapons of mass destruction. World War II in Japan? Those bombs were dropped in an effort to avoid an estimated 1 million casualties that an invasion would have caused. World War I? Nope. That was the French, German and British militaries.

The American money found in Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. The United States would be wrong to use it for its own purposes. I found it amusing that the writer claimed that education and Social Security funds are being cut in order to pay for the war. President Bush signed into law the largest increase ever in education funding, and a person’s payroll tax (FICA) pays for Social Security, not general tax revenue.

The writer of “Iraq wasn’t a threat” (July 14) seemed to be fixated on the previous jobs held by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney before they were elected. Brown and Root was given a $9 billion contract to help repair damage done to Iraq’s oil machinery. Who were the contracts supposed to go to? The only other corporation that does this type of work is based in France.

I really got a laugh when I read the writer’s explanations of the WMDs that haven’t been found in Iraq. Isn’t it a little much to ask deployed soldiers in Iraq to quickly find things that Saddam Hussein had years to hide? Even if WMDs are not found, the United States was right to go into Iraq just on humanitarian grounds. I’m sure that the Iraqis were worse when compared to the Liberians. Yet the people who opposed the Iraqi conflict are so quick to call for troops to go into Liberia. Were we morally right to go into Iraq? If we were, we’d also be morally correct to go into Liberia for humanitarian reasons.

Yes, we did hang former President Clinton out to dry for lying about sex that didn’t hurt anyone. He was hung out to dry for lying in court, also known as perjury. It’s a crime that either the letter writer or I would have spent time in jail for committing.

Anything that Bush mentioned about Iraq’s WMD programs was previously said by Clinton and supported by leading Senate Democrats in 1998. So if Bush lied in 2002, then Clinton and Senate Democrats are just as guilty of lying about the same subject. The letter writer can’t have it both ways.

Sgt. Kenneth R. EmersonVicenza, Italy

Military manpower

I’m writing to thank Stars and Stripes for the article “That stretched-out feeling: Bush says military won’t be overextended, but troops beg to differ,” (July 15) which covered the current shortage in military manpower and the straining effect on our troops.

As the conflict in Iraq continues, and as more troops are being deployed to hot spots around the world, it’s imperative that our armed forces increase their end strengths to meet the demanding operation tempo.

What is disturbing is that legislation to increase the number of active duty personnel was not funded through the Defense Appropriations subcommittee in the House, and manpower increases were not proposed in the Senate. In reaction to this, the Fleet Reserve Association has written letters to the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittees urging them to add funding that would cover increases in personnel end strengths.

The FRA, representing the enlisted men and women of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, continues to fight for increasing the number of active duty troops in order to relieve the strain on those who have fought bravely in defense of our country.

Joseph L. BarnesNational Executive SecretaryFleet Reserve AssociationAlexandria, Va.

Adventure ends

As our adventure at SHAPE, Belgium, quickly comes to an end, Jim, Tia, B.J. and I want to express our deep appreciation for the wonderful memories that the military family has shared with us. When we arrived almost three years ago as Department of Defense civilians, we were total strangers to a new culture and a brand new way of life. We soon found ourselves in the middle of a “family” that was not only willing to offer us friendship, but also help us learn to settle in our new world. We’re so blessed at having been given the opportunity to become part of this warm and caring community.

We’re truly impressed with the high quality of the people we’ve met here. We’ll forever be thankful for the willingness of our men and woman to serve their country. We’re grateful to the families of these people, who make huge sacrifices to share their loved ones with their country, often watching them leave for parts unknown.

One of the hardest things our family has to do now is say goodbye to the people we’ve shared our lives with these last three years. It’s especially hard knowing that we’re not likely to meet most of them again. As our paths move in different directions, military family members all over the world should please accept our promise that they’ll be constantly in our prayers. We don’t know all of their names, but God has them close to his heart. May they each be in his care, under his watchful eye and safe from the evils of this ever-changing world.

Cindi ZahniserSHAPE, Belgium

Offended soldier

I just want to remind the male writer of the letter “Playboy model inappropriate” (July 13) that although the military may not be a democracy per se, he or any of his other offended friends could have turned their backs or left the formation area when the offending female from Playboy stepped out to boost the morale of the rest of the future pedophiles and sexual perverts with which he serves. That must be what the rest of the vagrants who watched and cheered for her are doomed to be.

I ask the writer, was she naked? Did she perform lewd and crude acts? Or did she just smile and wave and pose for a few pictures with her clothes on? Did she invade the writer’s personal space and whisper sexually explicit comments that made him uncomfortable and caused him distress? I’m guessing the writer is the first person to volunteer to teach sensitivity classes to his soldiers when in garrison.

The writer should please remember that we fight for freedoms such as being able to enjoy an attractive woman in a magazine. The writer enjoys the freedom to not buy the magazine. We’ve already had freedoms taken away from us by “sensitive” people. Remember when we could say the Pledge of Allegiance in schools or pray? Now we can’t, thanks to sensitive types. The writer should please relax, exercise his neck muscles and look away the next time the USO sends these vagrants to entertain the rest of us.

Gunnery Sgt. G.M. ClemensonDiwaniyah, Iraq

July 21

Weekend warriors

This is in response to the letter “Guardsmen/reservists” (June 17). The hats of the women of Bravo Company, 142nd Echelon Corps and Below (Heavy), are off to the reservist writer. As guardsmen, we couldn’t agree more. Many times we feel that the National Guard and Reserve is misunderstood by the active-duty component.

Yes, we chose to be “weekend warriors.” We made the decision to pursue our educations, careers, and family and social lives on the civilian side. We also made the decision to include the U.S. military in that lifestyle for the same reasons that many individuals join active duty. It’s because of experience, knowledge, educational benefits and a source of income. But it’s mainly because of the pride that comes with serving our country.

Some consider us underdogs because we don’t wear the uniform every day. Yet we go through the same training and testing required by the Army. Many of us have prior service, and many of us also do our military occupational specialties on the civilian side. For instance, a medic is a registered nurse and a combat engineer is a foreman for a construction outfit. Many of us are very experienced and well educated for our MOSs. We also seem to get the job done well when given a mission.

We and our employers have made sacrifices for us to be here. College educations are on hold, and colleges and universities are losing revenue. Our troops here are everything from teachers to police officers. These jobs wait patiently for our return. Some troops are making better money here while others are losing, which can cause hardships at home.

We’re not complaining, just stating the facts. Being in the Guard/Reserve is truly a balancing act. We’re proud to make these sacrifices, and we’re proud to join forces with all military components to stand up as one for our nation. It would just be nice to see a little more respect and know it’s understood that we’re also needed back home. We are what helps make America what it is today.

Sgt. Heidi K. PaulsonBaghdad, Iraq

Living conditions

As I understand it, our reason for being here in Iraq was to remove a corrupt regime. Mission accomplished. Our reason for still being here is to help the Iraqi people get back on their feet and set up some form of government. The same people who are taking care of us soldiers are trying to ensure a smooth transition. Judging from our living conditions, I don’t see anything happening here in the near future.

We have a government, but no — or not enough — hot meals, water, Internet, phones, etc. And that’s not to mention a hit-or-miss mail system. The Iraqi people may not have a government, but they have phones, hot meals, water, Internet, air conditioning, etc. It almost makes one wonder who is really worse off here.

My unit, the 2-70th Armored Battalion, arrived in Kuwait on March 7. We crossed the berm with the 3rd Infantry Division on March 21. We fought with the 101st Airborne Division and are now in Baghdad with our own division, the 1st Armored Division from Fort Riley, Kan. Our battalion is the only one in theater that has been conducting continuous combat operations since we arrived.

It’s time for some air conditioning, a phone call, an e-mail, or a good, hot meal. I think that the biggest, baddest, most technologically advanced Army in the world could do a little something for a few war weary but still highly motivated GIs.

Sgt. John NormanBaghdad, Iraq

Thanks for mail

I just want to say thanks to all the people who make it possible to send and receive mail in Iraq. Even though it may take awhile, it’s nice to know that I’m missed at home. My family is grateful to get letters letting them know that I’m OK. Thanks again for this luxury that so many people take for granted — sometimes even me.

Spc. Chris McCordIraq

Help with transition

Why is it that we’re so good at setting up our soldiers for success on the battlefield but so bad at setting them up for success as they transition? Returning GIs go through a bum’s rush of outprocessing and out the door that sets them up for failure. It’s inexcusable.

The success of our people, whether they re-enlist or ETS, is or should be an imperative for all chains of command. There’s no part of our society that’s so effected by the success or failure of each individual as the military. If we fail on the battlefield, our friends, families, comrades and units suffer. If we fail in transition, it’s almost worse. Corporate America gets to excuse itself by saying servicemembers are “culturally unprepared” “infantilized,” or “inadequately trained or educated” and disregards them as desirable hires.

The current system is inadequate. It doesn’t provide more than a “check the box” equivalent for those who’ve decided to transition. It’s up to all of us, E-0 to O-7, to be successful, to remember where we came from and to take care of the troops. So whether we’re career military or first enlistments, we are or should be obligated to take care of each other while in the military and when we seize the ring and succeed in corporate America.

Setting subordinates up for success is what good leaders do. That needs to apply to transitioning servicemembers as well.

Donald R. MillsChief Warrant Officer 2Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Stop bashing government

I’m very upset. There are many reasons. I’ll key in on two of them.

The first is my reaction to the continued bashing of President Bush over the war on terrorism. What do people expect? We were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. More than 4,000 Americans died. The president made a commitment to hunt down those responsible. He’s keeping that promise.

I’m not a lock step loyalist who blindly supports our leadership. I don’t agree with certain political decisions. But I don’t bash my country and its leadership. I didn’t agree with many Clinton administration decisions, but I still served proudly in our armed forces and trusted in the ability of our government to do the right things. Everyone has a right to disagree. But many are publicly displaying their own personal hatred of our current government and its leaders. These extreme actions during a time of war are wrong.

The United States has not suffered another terrorist attack. It’s because the Bush administration doesn’t follow opinion polls to decide to do the right thing. All the Chicken Littles should now look back and realize that the sky has not fallen in the United States. Our national leadership hasn’t allowed it to happen.

I’m also upset by the bashing of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Experts” predicted thousands of U.S. casualties in Iraq. It didn’t happen. Any U.S. life lost in combat is tragic. Any professional commander feels each loss within his own soul. I heard it often in my own commanding general’s voice. The Iraq war is less than five months old. It’s not over. We’re helping Iraq rebuild. It takes time. The average tour of duty in Vietnam was one year. Does America really expect an entire war to begin and end in less time than that?

I also hear complaints about not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The true WMDs are Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. If we’ve killed them or destroyed their means of attacking America, we’ve destroyed the true WMDs.

Those who disagree should work through their legislators to facilitate changes and vote their consciences. But they should please stop bashing our government in view of the world and every servicemember overseas. It isn’t right.

Reg NealKuwait

July 22

Supports husband

I’m writing in response to the letter “Freedom’s needs come first” (July 5). My husband wrote the letter “Transformation plan” (June 29). He in no way believes that this is a ploy to make me divorce him or to keep him from re-enlisting. My husband re-enlisted on June 26 and plans to make the military his career. He was simply saying that it takes a strong marriage to withstand military life. With regular deployments it’s hard, but the plan to make deployments more regular would add unnecessary stress and hardships on families that already endure normal separations.

I do and always will support my husband’s job and his choices. I share his dedication to serving our country. But that doesn’t mean that military spouses don’t endure a rough road. I’ll stand right beside my husband and I’ll continue to be strong and supportive in his military career. But I agree with what my husband said about the retention rate and the divorce rate. I know of quite a few soldiers who are choosing to get out to keep their families together because of the hardships that reoccurring deployments cause. Divorce rates are going up daily from where I stand just from normal deployments. I can only imagine what it would be if they start doing redeployments more often.

But in no way am I going to add to this. I am and always will be a soldier’s wife. I’m very proud of my husband and the rest of the soldiers in Iraq who are doing their jobs with pride. My husband is the best of the best.

Kim JohnsonWürzburg, Germany

Airport terminal

The new Ramstein AMC airport terminal in Germany is great. It’s like a breath of fresh air — that is, unless one goes between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Waiting passengers are asked to leave after 11 p.m. and are told they may return at 4 a.m. the following morning. So if one doesn’t have a hotel room or someone to pick him up, his room for the night is the benches outside the terminal or the floor outside the terminal. People are allowed to use the toilet inside but can’t stay. Why? I asked some personnel. They couldn’t give me an answer.

How did I find out about this? I dropped off an active-duty soldier who was returning to the States. Later the soldier called to let me know that there were no more flights available until the following afternoon. So I drove back that evening to find the GI and others standing outside the terminal with their luggage at 11:15 p.m. The outside of the terminal was beginning to look like an open air flophouse. Benches were occupied and some people were already asleep. I brought the soldier back the next morning and saw a long line of hopeful passengers waiting outside, some still wrapped in comforters and blankets.

This isn’t a great ad for our brand new facility. An airman on duty didn’t know why this is necessary. It can’t be a security issue. These people have already been screened on their first trip inside the terminal. Isn’t it more of a security threat to have people sleeping outside? It’s warm now. What happens when cooler weather and rain come? I’m very surprised. The rationale escapes me. Is this how we are looking after our military personnel?

I know space available is a privilege. The flight service is great. But why this mass ejection at 11 p.m.?

Valerie B. CroweBensheim, Germany

Closed terminal

Who determined that the airport terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is closed at night?

I was recently called by a serviceman who was traveling on space-available travel. He said he couldn’t get on a flight that day and would try the next day. I told him to find a comfortable chair. But everyone had to leave the terminal and they wouldn’t be let back in until 4 a.m. He said they’d be fine outside. I was confused and said that was senseless and that I’d pick him up for the night.

I found 20 to 25 people outside the terminal, sleeping wherever they could. I was shocked. The security guard said, “The terminal is closed.” He didn’t know why. The person I picked up (along with three others) said all the billets were full and there were no rooms at local hotels.

The next morning I took them back and everyone was lined up. It was Sunday so the terminal didn’t open until 10 a.m. I asked for someone in charge and was told the noncommissioned officer in charge doesn’t work weekends. So apparently no one is in charge on the weekends. What happened to service? The night before, I saw women and children sleeping on benches outside. Is this the service image we want the Air Force to project?

This isn’t a force protection concern. That’s taken care of at the door. We should be concerned for the safety of people sleeping outside. What’s going to happen when cold weather hits? These people were, however, allowed to use the terminal’s restrooms. Does this make sense? If the terminal’s closed, why let people in at all? If they’re allowed to use the restrooms, why not just let them in? I’m totally confused.

I know Space-A is a privilege. I had more than 23 years in the Air Force. I know travelers have a responsibility to house themselves. But when traveling Space-A, people aren’t always familiar with the area. I’ve never know a terminal to be closed at night, but I understand that this is policy now. At this stage, I’m ashamed to admit that I spent more than 23 years in the Air Force serving the Military Airlift Command/AMC.

Robert AdamsMannheim, Germany

Promoting democracy

This is in response to the letter “Iraq wasn’t a threat” (July 14). The writer’s entire hypothesis regarding the threat and the outcome of the current conflict appears to be based purely on rhetorical and emotional speculation. He clearly fails to fully understand the complexity of international policies. His assumption that the Bush administration exploited weapons of mass destruction to go to war with Iraq and line the pockets of his business associates is incorrect. The proliferation of WMDs remains a significant problem throughout the world. The Bush administration decided on military intervention based primarily on intelligence it currently possessed. The former regime’s human rights record and the threat to political stability within the region were also taken into consideration.

The subsequent awarding of reconstruction contracts was primarily based upon a company’s ability to successfully operate on an international scale. In the long run this will save the taxpayers money. I work for a government contractor, and I can say that not all companies warrant being awarded a contract of that magnitude. Many smaller companies don’t possess the infrastructure or resources necessary to successfully meet the terms of a multibillion dollar contract. This often results in gross mismanagement and waste, causing re-awarding of contracts and significant loss to taxpayers. Although larger defense contractors have been awarded significant reconstruction contracts, much work will be handed out to subcontractors with experience in technical fields. My company is one of them. We do our best to keep a good number of Americans employed, and we ensure that the government and taxpayers are receiving a valuable service for their money.

The letter writer’s assumption that soldiers were given “dumb” orders is the kind of rhetoric one would expect from a private with six months in the service. If military leaders were required to explain every reason behind an order, nothing would ever be accomplished and operational security could be jeopardized. The security of the Iraqi oil industry is a significant priority. Iraq will need its oil industry to restart its economy and reduce its reliance on foreign aid. The by-product of our benevolent capitalism — American companies profiting — should not be held as a political dagger.

Master Sgt. Steven E. Gough (Ret.)Heidelberg, Germany

July 23

No phones, Internet

I’m a private first class in the 46th Chemical Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion. My unit is attached to the 4th Infantry Division’s Divarty Tactical Operations Center. We’re here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the eight weeks I’ve been deployed, I’ve closely read Stars and Stripes about telephone and e-mail access that has helped thousands of soldiers stay in touch with loved ones and keep their financial affairs intact. A lot of soldiers in different areas of Iraq talk about having weekly and in some cases daily phone access and Internet capabilities. But as of May 30 here at Taji Airfield, soldiers have been told that there will not be an AT&T phone center placed here. What makes it even harder to grasp is that soldiers in Desert Storm had weekly phone usage nearly 13 years ago.

To make matters worse, our leadership had been informed that we’d have phones and Internet access to help morale. But now it’s not possible. Not only is mail a major issue, we’re now faced with the obstacle of possibly not speaking with our families for six to eight months.

I’ve been in the Army for 16 months, and until this deployment I was blind. I thought the Army took care of its soldiers. I’ll admit the Army has changed me into a more disciplined and strong-minded adult. But if the government can spend $80 billion for this war, then it can contribute a portion of tax money to provide phone access and Internet capabilities to every American soldier deployed anywhere in the world. Not only does that build morale for soldiers, it builds motivation to accomplish the mission at hand. Every soldier I come in contact with feels the same way.

When will we have much-needed morale boosters such as phones and Internet access, and why can these luxuries be put everywhere else in Iraq except here? Who can fix this problem? Who do we point the finger at to get these major morale issues corrected? Every soldier and family member across the globe needs to know that we’re not getting the things we need and deserve. I pray this letter will motivate the people who can make these dreams a reality.

The soldiers here at Taji Airfield are not fighting for one another. We’re fighting for the United States. I demand we be treated like Americans. We reserve the right to have much-needed contact with our families and loved ones.

Private 1st Class Richard StanleyTaji Airfield, Iraq

BBC news

Every day my men and I listen to British Broadcasting Company news. Since it’s the only news station that we can pick up in English, it’s our only real time source of world new. My major problem with BBC journalists is the extreme anti-U.S. spin they put on every story relating to Iraq. Many of their reports are one-sided and don’t give U.S. authorities an opportunity to provide their side of the story. It appears to me that they’re too busy interviewing cowardly Iraqis who would make threats against U.S. forces rather than have the courage to face us in combat.

I’ve never seen or heard of a BBC journalist anywhere in our area of south Baghdad. Maybe they should spend some time talking to some paratroops in our unit, the 82nd Airborne Division. Our brigade combat team has been fighting the war since March. Why doesn’t the BBC come ask us about our battles in Samawah, where we liberated an entire city from the horrors of the Saddam Fedayeen?

The people there still hold us and other U.S. servicemembers in high regard. Maybe the BBC should speak to the local people of the Daura Refinery complex and ask them how they feel about the presence of U.S. forces. Could it be because these people’s positive feelings toward the United States wouldn’t fit in with the BBC’s anti-U.S. views?

I’m tired of this radio station bad-mouthing my country, my commander in chief, and our mission here in Iraq. I sincerely hope AFN can get a radio station set up soon so we can listen to some unbiased news that isn’t clouded with righteous arrogance.

Staff Sgt. J. CritasiBaghdad, Iraq

Access denied

I’m a sergeant currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Armored Division. In mid-June some of us learned of an MCI Internet center located just minutes away in our sector where soldiers are able to log on for 20 minutes. They can send e-mails to loved ones to say they’re doing fine here in Iraq.

Recently a memorandum from the commander of the facility where the center is located said that only members of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and its attached units are allowed to enter the facility and use the computers. After learning this, some members of my unit and I drove to the center. The soldiers guarding the entrance told us that the base camp is closed to 1st Armored Division soldiers.

I find this appalling. The Internet center is located in the center of the 1st Armored Division’s sector. U.S. taxpayers are the ones who fund these kinds of services. So does it make sense to segregate availability due to one’s unit assignment? Soldiers aren’t the only ones being deprived of this service The people back home who in one way or another pay for it are being deprived as well.

I realize that many of my fellow soldiers here in Iraq work hard and live with far less than those of us here in Baghdad. I don’t want to take anything away from them in any way by writing this letter. My point is simply that if services like the Internet center are available, it only makes sense to allow access to them. After all, we’re all on the same side and an Army of one, right?

Staff Sgt. James A. ChecchiaIraq

Guardsman insulted

I’m an active-duty veteran. I was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. These days I’m here again with my National Guard unit.

The writer of the letter “Finishing off the enemy” (May 13) invalidated his entire train of thinking by making a disparaging statement about the reservists and Guardsmen who serve here in Iraq and around the world.

So just for fun and because I’m a good sport, I’ll say that it’s about time the active-duty component earned their beer money. Oh, sorry. Iraq is dry.

Spc. Michael CokerOregon National GuardMosul, Iraq


I’m currently in the Reserve serving in Kuwait. I’ve spent 12 years in active duty, and I haven’t seen anything like the current situation in trying to get promoted. We have several soldiers from other companies attached or reassigned to B Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment. My unit is originally A Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.

I’ve been activated since Feb. 3. I put in my promotion packet to the senior board by May 23. The board is now over and I missed it due to a communication breakdown or a lack of knowledge on where the packets go. The unit I’m in says promotions are up to my original unit. My original unit returned my packet, saying I’m in B Company now. There are other soldiers like this seeking promotions to E-5 and E-6.

I’d like someone to help in this matter. My first sergeant in Bravo Company says I’ll have to wait for the next senior promotion board. I think I shouldn’t have to. The command sergeant major also gave a briefing. He said that an acting CSM doesn’t have the authority to hold a promotion board. What’s happened to taking care of soldiers?

Staff Sgt. Thomas J Mannion IIICamp Udairi, Kuwait

July 24

Ranting writers

Once reasonable people stop chuckling at the rants in the letters “Bush not in Iraq” (July 13) and “Iraq wasn’t a threat” (July 14), they begin to pity the writers. It seems these people begin each day angrier at America and its president than the last.

A few points:

¶ Presidents are the civil authority over the military and the commanders in chief. They are not platoon leaders responsible for assaulting enemy bunkers.

¶ Service in the National Guard or Reserve is honorable duty. It’s more honorable than expressing a “great loathing” for the military while dodging the draft.

¶ America supported an all-volunteer military in the 1970s. There is no requirement for the president’s children or anyone’s children to serve in the armed forces.

¶ Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden (or their remains) haven’t been found. It was many years after World War II before Hitler’s fate was widely known. Dead or alive? Who knows? But to paraphrase, they aren’t leading any parades anywhere.

¶ After 10 weeks, there have been no public reports confirming Iraq’s WMDs. This is in spite of the fact that every reliable intelligence source in the world suspected that such weapons existed. By Iraq’s own admission the weapons existed. So now people who were willing to let the United Nations search until the moon turned blue expect U.S. forces to turn up the weapons immediately.

¶ Yes, the United States holds and has used WMDs, and the world is a better place for it. This is what people like the letter writers hate most. They can’t accept that America has been, by and large, a force for good in the world.

¶ Education cut? U.S. education was recently the beneficiary of a huge spending bill crafted by Sen. Ted Kennedy and signed by the president.

¶ Social Security cut? I doubt it. I’d have heard from my dad.

¶ How long will operations in Iraq continue? It’s hard to say. Probably less time than we’ve already been in Bosnia. However long it takes, we better be prepared to stay.

Doug SchumickStuttgart, Germany

Iraq not so bad

I’m the type of person who looks on the positive side of every situation, and after thinking long and hard, I’ve decided life here in Iraq isn’t bad at all. To be a part of history and restore a new life for the Iraqi people takes brave, committed soldiers. I’m one of those soldiers. I also think about the great incentives and entitlements we receive for being here: extra pay, free mail and Meals, Ready to Eat. The smiling faces of Iraqi children make me proud to be an American serving my country.

Sgt. Paul MurphyBaghdad, Iraq

July 25

Where are replacements?

This letter is about the way the military is handling the distribution of GIs in Operation Iraqi Freedom. What’s going on? Units with completed missions are being called on for extra duty when they should have been replaced with fresh troops months ago. The 3rd Infantry Division is a prime example of this mismanagement. It took Baghdad so quickly that Saddam Hussein never knew what hit him. It did a marvelous job, and look what the soldiers got. They’re now policing the streets of Iraq while many qualified units in the States are enjoying the summer months. There are other units sitting at various camps without any mission at all and getting paid for absolutely nothing. What a waste!

Motivation and morale are at an all-time low because of all this. Think of what this does to the families back home waiting for their loved ones. These same family members have heard about this kind of mismanagement. I’m surprised their congressmen can even function with all the phone calls and mail they’re inundated with.

The system needs to be revamped. That’s apparent. If a measly enlisted soldier like me sees this, why can’t the higher-ups? Where are the replacements for the units that have done their missions and time? Soldiers who have been here are tired and morale is waning. An unmotivated soldier is an unsafe soldier, and that isn’t good in a country like Iraq with its inherent dangers. Anyway, what do I know?

Cpl. Daniel Von KanelKuwait

Abysmal mail service

I just want to add another letter to what I’m sure must be a mountain regarding the abysmal level of mail service in Iraq.

Note the date on this letter (May 27). When did Stars and Stripes receive it? (It was received on July 18.) The latest letter in Stripes that I’ve read was “Downrange mail” (May 23). The writer is experiencing the same confusion we all are as to why letters mailed as many as 54 days later are delivered before those mailed previously.

I’m with the 1208th Quartermaster Corps at Tallil Air Base, Iraq. We’re with the Alabama National Guard. We have families and occupations in Alabama that we’re trying to hold together while serving half a world away. There is no “Army family” there to take care of things. We must do as best we can from this remote spot. There is no telephone service other than the usual hit-or-miss WMR system. The mail is the one system we should be able to count on. I’d like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain why we can’t.

Sgt. Thomas R. LongTallil Air Base, Iraq

First Amendment

I’m in Iraq and just read the letter “Wrong about rights” (June 18). The opinion was laughable at best.

The writer said the defenders of Pulse magazine distort the First Amendment by saying that Pulse is protected by freedom of the press. He further argued that the First Amendment is solely for protection of political expression. He asked if readers want a generation of children with the values that Pulse promotes.

The writer inspired me to help him clarify a couple of issues. First is his clouded view of the First Amendment. I wonder if the writer has ever read the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This is directly from our Constitution. It should be very enlightening.

The writer also asked if we want a generation of children forming their values from those promoted by a magazine. The answer is certainly not. But then again, I don’t leave television to baby-sit children. To think any publication can destroy society is ludicrous. Pulse magazine can’t weaken family values if parents fulfill their responsibilities.

Staff Sgt. Chris KeeneyIraq

Mail not to standard

I have yet one more complaint to make about the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Army’s postal system. The complaint can be summed up in five words: They are not to standard.

I recently received a package from my wife. It included some things I needed that I’d specifically requested. I was absolutely consumed with anger when I received it. It was handed to me in a plastic garbage bag. I was a little surprised but thought that the wonderful people in the postal system had done this to keep from losing the contents because maybe the package had been damaged. It was damaged all right. The package was drenched with what I hope was only water. The box was completely soaked through to the point of falling apart. All the contents were destroyed. A letter from my wife that was inside was illegible. The pictures my wife sent had been affected by the liquid so much that the ink used on the photographic paper had been almost entirely washed away. The ink in turn had been smeared all over the letter from my wife.

This is absolutely unacceptable. I’ve been in Kuwait and Iraq for three months, and I’ve yet to see any rain. So what happened? 1) My package was forced to swim from New York to Kuwait. 2) Air transportation was provided, but someone decided to get some fresh air by opening a cargo door and lost my package in the Mediterranean Sea. 3) My package arrived in Kuwait just fine, but my package was forced to swim up the Tigris River from Basra.

Barring these possibilities, my package must have been a “talker.” It must have made so much noise en route to Baghdad that some overworked soldier had no choice but to hold my package under water until it shut up.

These possibilities are comical but so outrageous that they can’t be true -- I hope. So I can only conclude that gross negligence was involved. With our Army lacking enough water to give soldiers more than two bottles a day, I can only guess that our mail is being sorted in a shower or at a water purifying facility.

I wasn’t notified that my package had been damaged and that I could make a claim against the contents. I was told that since it didn’t include such a notice, it was most likely damaged by the Army. I can only imagine what other horror stories are out there about mishandled mail.

This must be corrected. Instances like these are federal crimes in the civilian world and they’re punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the military. Soldiers deserve better. We combat troops are asked to give 100 percent in Iraq. So it seems like whoever is handling our mail could give us 100 percent too. After all, the mail isn’t shooting back.

2nd Lt. Philip E. CrabtreeBaghdad, Iraq

Reality check

This letter is in response to “Great injustice” (June 27).

The letter writer expressed his feelings about not having sufficient time to clear to ETS. He claimed he’s allotted 30 days (20 working days) and because he’ll arrive stateside just in time for a four-day weekend, he might have to cut into his 97 days of terminal leave. This officer has never had it so good.

The writer further claimed that he hasn’t seen his 17-month-old son for more than six months due to his deployment. He said that bumping into his terminal leave could cause a loss of family time and undue stress. Give me a break. First, he’s lucky enough to be getting out and using that much leave. Second, what about the countless soldiers who couldn’t get out on their ETS dates because of stop loss? How about the soldiers who missed their children’s births? Due to deployments, I’ve missed two consecutive birthdays of my daughter. She’s 2 years old.

Clearly the letter writer has had it too good. He needs a reality check.

Spc. Joshua ErbIraq

July 26

Respect for Iraqis

It’s no wonder why there’s been an increase in attacks on coalition personnel in Iraq. We’re here to help Iraqis gain their freedom from Saddam Hussein. In that effort, coalition forces set up checkpoints in random places throughout Iraq to stop and deter the sale or transportation of weapons. Enforcement of an 11 p.m. curfew is for Iraqis’ protection. Soldiers are trained to respect citizens and not treat them all as criminals.

But as we pass by some unit checkpoints, we see that civilians are being screamed at to get out of their vehicles. Some soldiers forget that when they don’t use interpreters, the civilians just sit there with no clue as to what they’re being told. Plus there are weapons in the citizens’ faces. So now not only do the citizens not understand what to do, they’re also scared to death. Why do they feel this way? Because when military forces came around under Saddam they were treated the same way, just in a more violent manner.

We soldiers have been trained how to have our weapons at the ready — ready to engage hostile targets as they appear. We shouldn’t place our safety second. But it isn’t necessary to demoralize and threaten every citizen who’s stopped. The people who we’re stopping and scaring to death might have agreed with the coalition at one point. But after their families have been threatened and scared to death, these individuals have more than likely changed their minds about us. Hence the increased number of attacks on coalition personnel.

What it boils down to is that Iraqis are starting to get fed up with the coalition. They’re sick of being mistreated and are starting to take matters into their hands. We can still maintain a secure posture while treating Iraqis with the same respect that we expect for ourselves. Then maybe we can all go home peacefully and alive.

Staff Sgt. William E. AdkinsBaghdad, Iraq

Mail handlers

How can I possibly belittle Army mail handlers? They handle my mail with less dignity than a sack of potatoes as I watch them fling bags of mail from their trucks to the ground five feet below. How dare I provoke malicious conversations with these mail handlers when none of them can explain why we continue to receive boxes already opened and emptied out? Perhaps I should just accept the fact that one letter might reach me more than a month prior to a previous letter mailed by the same person.

I wouldn’t dare pass judgment on those who write letters from the United States defending the mail service to Iraq. Not when they surely would be the first to complain if they couldn’t receive their tax returns or electricity or water bills and lost vital services.

Nor would I make any critical remarks to Combat Service Support personnel in Baghdad who tell us that there are alternate means of communicating (i.e. phones and the Internet) with our loved ones. Not while they’re sitting in their air-conditioned buildings with enough time in their days to wait hours on end to use the post exchange or go to Burger King. Oh, by the way, congratulations on getting ice cream, too, especially when many of my combat brethren are staged at facilities that don’t even have power.

What the Army considers morale features, we call luxuries — primarily cool water and mail. As we conduct our escort missions, traffic control points, searches for explosives and courtesy patrols, water at less than 100 degrees is a precious thing. And finishing these long days by reading mail from our loved ones truly makes it quite tolerable.

I want to ask my fellow soldiers who take pride in completing their missions successfully to keep their eyes open. If by chance they see mail addressed to H Troop, 1st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, my comrades here would appreciate it if they’d forward it to us. It seems that someone has dropped the ball, or, I mean, the bag.

Staff Sgt. Joseph DirksIraq

Make mail suggestions

I’ve been deployed to the Baghdad, Iraq, region since March 4 and participated in the overthrow of the Baathist regime. Whenever I get to read Stars and Stripes, I often find myself perusing the Letters to the Editor section first. Above all, I notice how many of the letters are from soldiers who feel compelled to voice their opinions on the mail system and how it isn’t working.

I ask these soldiers, regardless of rank or position, to put themselves in the boots of other soldiers who are tasked with handling the mail for thousands of our comrades. Indeed, it’s my perception that this isn’t an easy task. It’s my firm belief that a vast majority of these letters offer myriad complaints and far too few suggestions on how to improve the mail system.

Most everyone will say that receiving letters and packages from home is the greatest morale boost we could ask for. I’m not trying to thwart anybody’s freedom of speech or point a finger of blame at anyone. I believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. My only suggestion is that readers who complain about a lack of mail should file their suggestions on how to improve the mail system. If the mail system is as bad as some claim, then I’m fairly certain that absolutely nobody over here would get a single piece of mail.

Sgt. Joseph A. ComfortBaghdad, Iraq

Credit for all

This is in response to the letter “Give credit” (July 3). The writer said his company did all the fighting and cleaning of the cities in Iraq before the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division arrived. What he failed to mention is that the 82nd and 101st went into the cities of Samawah, Diwaniyah and Karbala because the mechanized units ahead of them bypassed these cities.

The writer also didn’t mention how members of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment were in a four-hour firefight in Samawah before any mechanized units arrived. Furthermore, if the cities were cleared before the 82nd and 101st arrived, then why did we encounter so many pockets of resistance?

As for the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, I’m not saying those guys didn’t do anything. But they shouldn’t say they did everything and take credit that they don’t deserve. Airplanes and tanks don’t clear buildings. It’s done by light infantry such as the 82nd and 101st, which does extensive training in military operations on urbanized terrain.

Pfc. Adam CostaBaghdad, Iraq

Mail morale booster

I totally disagree with the letter “Mail complaints” (June 2). War must be fought with bullets, food and fuel. But behind all this is one main thing called morale. What soldiers do is weaken the enemy by diminishing morale. But in order to fight and win, our soldiers’ morale must be maintained at the highest level. A lack of communication between soldiers and family members or friends is enough to weaken any soldier’s morale.

The writer’s comment about bullets, food and fuel being needed to win a war was vague. Who would send soldiers to war without bullets, food and fuel? What is the writer’s concept of war?

We all know there’s a price to pay for freedom. President Bush said this to millions of Americans on national television. So even before the war in Iraq started, every soldier knew that such a price was inevitable. We share our condolences with the families and friends who have lost loved ones. We were here together. We, too, know the loss. But that doesn’t stop the thousands of soldiers who are looking forward to mail call. We care about family members and friends, just as we care about winning this war. This can only be shown through mail. So don’t confuse complaint with genuine concern.

Staff Sgt. Karl StephensMosul, Iraq

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