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October 6

Missing the point

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

October 6 Missing the point Soldiers have families Positive newsOctober 7 Attack on Bush Stop-loss letter Combat armsOctober 8 Speculation benefits no one Troops up to the task DUI punishments unequalOctober 9 Correcting soldier Germany's opinionOctober 10 Better barracks needed Housing area trash Departing GermanyOctober 11 Commander has no heart Shelton's medal

October 12 Teacher staffing Americans' cowardice

I’ve read a number of recent letters to Stars and Stripes discussing the proposal to make overseas tours for servicemembers unaccompanied. Arguments have been presented that soldiers function better when they know that they can come home to a warm and loving family environment at the end of the duty day. Arguments have been presented that drug and alcohol abuse are likely to be lessened by the proximity of families. Arguments have been presented that the opportunities for cultural enrichment provided by the presence of families in a foreign tour area — tourism, exposure to alien cultures and attitudes, etc. — are sufficiently valuable to make the monetary cost of such tours to the government a bargain. And the argument has been presented that families are more important than military duty and deserve more consideration. I don’t dispute any of these arguments, but they all miss the point.

The business of soldiers — and I use this term to encompass not only U.S. Army servicemembers, but those of the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force as well — is warfare. Warfare is, in the best of times and under the best of conditions, unpleasant. It is harsh, dangerous, brutal and cruel. It is the organized application of violence against human beings with the intent of causing harm to those human beings to the extent of maiming, causing permanent disability or killing them in the interests of the government or governments involved. That is what every soldier who voluntarily joins a military service or is conscripted into a military service is paid to do.

Warfare, and military service in general, is undemocratic. Armies are organized in hierarchies in which activity is directed from superior to subordinate in the form of commands. Not “consensus,” not “will of the people,” not “suggestions” but “commands.” The agreement of the subordinate is not required. Coercion is available. Discussion of the advisability of an action is not required. Once a decision has been made, a commander’s word is law. This is reality.

Soldiering is the acceptance of these realities. To be a soldier means that there is an understanding that some rights and privileges common to and taken for granted by citizens are forfeited for the duration of the period of service. Unfortunately, one of these privileges is being with one’s family. There is not now nor has there ever been an explicit or implied guarantee by the Department of Defense or any of the services that servicemembers’ families will be located with servicemembers. It is always based on the needs of the service. In addition, it’s worth noting that our commander in chief says the United States is at war.

It can be argued that the safety of military families is no greater in the continental United States than in a foreign tour area because of the nature of the war we are involved in. But the potential for hazard is increased when an American community is established in a foreign country. The American community sticks out. It’s visible, centralized and established as a specific target. Consequently, it must be protected. That protection diverts resources from the business of prosecuting warfare.

The cost of maintaining military dependent communities is also much greater than the cost of maintaining a strictly military force. If one doubts this, one need only compare currency exchange rate patterns from the first of the month with those of other periods during the month. Invariably, the dollar loses value temporarily around the first of the month. Overseas spending by Americans on rent, utilities, local bill payments and so on are sufficiently great to actually affect the value of the currency. That’s a lot of money being spent outside the United States. It’s money that could instead be directed toward war-fighting.

One letter writer said the proposed policy would sacrifice families to save a few bucks. Granted, that’s exactly what’s intended. And from the standpoint of the DOD, that’s entirely appropriate. The DOD is charged with managing the defense of the United States, period. It is not a social service agency. It may concern itself with the welfare of the families of its servicemembers, and it’s laudable if it does. But it’s not and shouldn’t be the DOD’s priority.

Another comment was that a servicemember’s participation is “just a job” while the family is the servicemember’s life. That’s fine. But that servicemember should probably consider whether military service is the right job for him or her. Military service, regardless of the servicemember’s occupational specialty, requires a commitment to kill or be killed in the line of duty. In my opinion, that sort of commitment takes it out of the “just a job” category.

Finally, a letter writer said that adoption of this proposed policy would adversely affect enlistments. That’s probably true, and I’m sure that the personnel folks are looking closely at that. It may be a sufficient reason to abandon the proposal entirely. But of the reasons I’ve seen presented so far, it’s the only valid one.

Mark HammellHeidelberg, GermanyHeidelberg, Germany

Soldiers have families

I was disturbed by the views in the letter “Overseas tours” (Sept. 20) about the possibility of overseas tours being unaccompanied.

First, the writer attacked soldiers opposed to the proposal by saying he’d hate to see them in combat if this is all it takes for their commitment to the Army to waiver. But the writer failed to realize that the soldiers opposed to this idea have families. The writer also said there’d be “some transitional discomforts.” We Army wives all understand as well as our soldiers that their duty can call them away from us, sometimes quite frequently. But this proposal would make it a certainty for all soldiers to be separated from their families for half of their military careers, even if there was no war during that time. And this is not to mention that many soldiers enlist to see the world and to give their children the same opportunity to broaden their horizons.

I also disagree that soldiers would be more focused on their mission due to less “familial distractions” because there would be fewer opportunities for contact with home. Yes, a competent, independent spouse makes all the difference in a military family. But a good soldier and a good father will still be concerned about his family back home, especially if he can’t be there to help. I proudly take care of my family both during my husband’s absence and while he’s in garrison. But my husband still worries about us because he has a commitment to his family that he can’t just turn off.

There would be benefits to the Army in eliminating accompanied overseas tours. Deployments with cohesive units would mean greater esprit de corps, and the Army would save money by not moving entire families. But the proposal would not eliminate domestic violence or dependent drug sales. Those things still exist among military families in the United States. It would eliminate them overseas but perhaps increase them in the United States. That’s not exactly a profitable trade.

Now I must respond to the letter writer’s suggestions to our leaders:

1) Hopefully the writer is not a soldier. Our government is comprised of both liberals and conservatives. I don’t believe President Bush will be authorizing a mass execution of liberals anytime soon.

2) I agree with any plan to get recruiters to say something truthful. But the likelihood of recruiters counseling new enlistees on marriage values is almost nil. Instead, perhaps we should revert to the old Family Support Group structure in which wives leaned on each other and the FSG leader knew when to guide a family toward Family Advocacy, which does teach traditional family values.

3) If the Army is going to “legally ensure” that its single female soldiers will practice reproductive responsibility so as not to have a deployable soldier who is also a single parent, then the Army also needs to consider a few other things, such as ensuring that single male soldiers practice “reproductive responsibility” and banning divorce. We do have single male soldiers who are single fathers, and divorce in the military nearly always leaves one parent living alone with a child. It seems more logical to just counsel all single soldiers on the pros and cons of having a child while single and let the soldiers be adults and make their own decisions. We can’t “baby” adults. Why would we want soldiers defending us who can’t decide for themselves whether to have a child?

Lastly, the writer said the proposal “would not cause us to kill our spouses and children.” I’m sure the writer’s opinion is not too farfetched. But what most people fail to realize is that just because we can adjust doesn’t mean we all will. Joining my husband for his tour in Europe allowed my children and I to meet my father-in-law, who lives in the Czech Republic. Had the tour been unaccompanied, I and my children might never have been able to get to know him. And what about the countless soldiers married to German women? Not everyone can wait around for Space A, and even fewer can afford transcontinental airfare. That puts many German wives in a position to either stay with their soldier and never see home again or vice versa. Even the strongest marriage can’t survive choices such as that.

Veronica GreplBaumholder, Germany

Positive news

Has Stars and Stripes ever thought about devoting one or two pages to positive things that happen daily in the States or overseas? There must be something, anything. Stripes’ features are primarily negative. It’s depressing. On a recent day, for instance, out of 19 “roundup” items, three were positive. For this reason, I’m not a subscriber.

Elke ZschaebitzBitburg, Germany

October 7

Attack on Bush

I’d like to respond to the letter “Bush’s remarks” (Oct. 2) which bad-mouthed President Bush. I’m sorry we still have people like this in our country who can bad-mouth our president. I believe in free speech and all, but this wasn’t constructive criticism. This was an attack on Bush’s character. Doesn’t anyone realize our president is trying to protect us? All these liberal politicians and all their diplomatic solutions haven’t worked. We saw this during the Clinton presidency. I believe our president is strong for all of us when nobody else is.

Immediate military action is necessary. The U.N. doesn’t want war because terrorists and hostile countries don’t want to use weapons of mass destruction against any of its member countries. Most of the countries in the U.N. are big breeding grounds where many terrorists are plotting and waiting to attack us. The weapons of mass destruction are pointed at Americans and the British. Do I think Saddam Hussein will bomb the United States? No. But I do think he’ll sell weapons of mass destruction to somebody who will.

I don’t know what President Bush did during the Vietnam War. I don’t know if it was right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury. But I see something in Bush that’s strong and real. It’s something that nobody can take away, even with our great losses on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s our determination to see that nothing like that terrible day ever happens again.

I don’t know if some people realize this or not, but we do have checks and balances. The president and vice president don’t sit in the Oval Office and pull every string there is to pull in America. Some individual agencies must take responsibility, like the FBI, the CIA, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If we’re prepared to go to war, I’m prepared to back my commander in chief all the way. I wish everybody would feel more like me — a true American.

Spc. Alan J. WolferGiessen, Germany

Stop-loss letter

This is in response to the letter “Lots of loss, but no stop” (Sept. 16) concerning the writer’s displeasure with the Army’s stop- loss program. I believe the writer’s displeasure with the Army’s stop-loss program is unfortunately based on personal considerations without insight into what the Army has been tasked to do since Sept. 11, 2001. The Army has made difficult decisions in executing the four increments and one partial lift of stop loss, in addition to the latest determination to make stop loss a 12-month policy instead of being open-ended.

Sept. 11, 2001, brought the Army and the other services into a new era of war-fighting with new requirements and challenges. The global war on terrorism is expected to take years to win, and the Army leadership has carefully considered the adverse affects of stop loss. This consideration has resulted in an incremental approach to stop loss, with the intent of touching the fewest numbers of soldiers possible. This certainly is different than the all or nothing approach that the other services took after Sept. 11, 2001, and what the Army did during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The specialties and skills affected by stop loss are those considered essential to the national security of the United States.

Let me address some of the specific issues raised in the letter. First, the Army has had outstanding success in its overall recruiting and retention program. It’s true we had to suspend the Army’s re-enlistment bonus program from Aug. 19 to Sept. 30. The suspension was because the Army reached the total number of soldiers it needed to retain in fiscal year 2002. Although the total number of soldiers needed was brought into or kept in the Army, there are still shortages in high-demand, low-density military occupational specialties. In addition, there is a high demand for individual augmentees from commands fully engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle for the military occupational specialties affected by stop loss. These two factors are why the Army continues its limited stop- loss program.

There wasn’t enough information in the letter to determine the problems with re-enlistment options for the writer or his buddies. The chief of staff of the Army’s manning guidance is to fill divisions, armored cavalry regiments and early deploying units to 100 percent. This guidance limits the number of re-enlistment locations we can offer soldiers if we expect to maintain unit readiness in accordance with the chief’s guidance. Fort Polk, La.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Drum, N.Y., continue to be great places to serve in our Army and are home to outstanding garrison and warfighting units. I believe soldiers at these locations would take exception to the letter writer’s question, “Is this the best the Army can do?”

Our Army leadership fully understands that by executing stop loss, it has to some degree disrupted soldiers’ lives. We have consistently tried to minimize the impact, and most recently put predictability back into soldiers’ lives through the 12-month stop-loss policy. As a noncommissioned officer, the letter writer is fully aware of the Army values we hold dear. I remind him and Stars and Stripes readers that selfless service means putting the welfare of the nation, the Army and subordinates before one’s own. While the letter writer may not be in direct support of ongoing operations in the global war on terrorism, his contributions to the Army in Kitzingen, Germany, are allowing other soldiers in his MOS to fully support the requirements of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle.

Finally, it’s my hope that the letter writer will reconsider wanting to leave the Army in the months ahead. But if the Army is no longer for him, I hope he can set aside his personal feelings and consider the continuing sacrifices made by all soldiers to defend our country and our national interests in a world starkly changed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Sgt. Maj. Tony G. RoseWashington, D.C.

Combat arms

I read the article “AF considers staffing posts with contractors” (Sept. 15) pertaining to the combat-arms career field, and I disagree with Staff Sgt. Gary Marsland’s comment. I feel pretty confident that civilians running the firearms training program will be able to do a better job than our current active duty instructors.

I’ve been a combat-arms training and maintenance (CATM) instructor for 20 years. I entered the career field as it was being realigned under the security police structure, although we maintained a separate Air Force specialty code. CATM instructors provide training for all base personnel, although the security police were the largest customers. The realignment really affected how business was done from that point forward. Supervisors would pressure young instructors to cut training short. I guess they thought this would make their security police leadership happy to get the students out of the class early so they could get back out to post. I remember hearing supervisors say, “They’re cops. They carry those weapons every day. They don’t need to sit and listen to the same old information every time they come to class.” I disagreed with that attitude then and I still disagree with it today. Not all CATM instructors have fallen victim to cheating students out of good training. There are still a few CATM instructors out there who want to provide high quality training.

Today it’s challenging to find high quality firearms training. They don’t develop a solid foundation of weapons knowledge since they don’t enter the career field as airmen basic. To lay this to rest, it would be more difficult to manipulate civilian instructors to cut services short. Civilians would add continuity and quality to the training.

Master Sgt. James PriceCamp Bullis, Texas

October 8

Speculation benefits no one

This is concerning Army Secretary Thomas White’s announcement of the troop rotation study. Overall, my advice to everyone is to take a breather, relax and don’t speculate as to what will or won’t happen. Troop rotation is only one option of the larger Army study of how we can man the force in the future. It’s too early to know the scope of the study, what the Army is specifically looking for in its study and what the overall goals of the proposal include.

All of us outside Washington, D.C., will have to wait awhile for the information to filter down. We will be informed of the who, what, when, where, why and how. But we have to be patient and allow the process to happen.

The Army, especially now with the ongoing transformation process, has done and is doing studies all the time in a variety of areas. As a matter of business, the Army conducts studies in order to improve the way it does business. This includes everything from improving the way we buy equipment, the use of automation, personnel processes and training resources to how we get paid, to name just a few.

News of the study has resulted in an emotional response from the field. Nobody, including me, has enough information to make an informed and intelligent response as to what the eventual outcome will be and what if any effects it will have on the future of the Army. Many times studies begin in one direction and end up with a completely different outcome than what was initially intended or expected.

Remember, the endgame in everything the Army is doing is to improve the readiness of the force and improve the training and quality of the already outstanding soldiers we have doing the mission every day.The Army’s also trying to improve the quality of life of our soldiers and their families.

Readers should have faith in the system. It won’t happen overnight. The chain of command will keep us informed as it progresses.

Lt. Col. Steven A. BoylanYongsan Garrison, South Korea

Troops up to the task

This is an open letter to U.S. servicemembers. With the first anniversary of the atrocity against our nation still fresh in our minds and the next phase of our war against terrorist murderers about to unfold, servicemembers should please know that their countrymen have them and their families uppermost in our hearts and prayers.

We didn’t start this war. But we must be the ones to finish it on our terms, not those dictated to us by any foreign country or organization. The whole world should be with us in this noble effort. But if, as usual, we must go it alone, so be it. Our nation is unified and motivated because we understand that we are fighting for our lives, for our way of life and even for a future that none of us will live to see. We know that the consequence of inaction in the face of evil is to allow evil to triumph, and we will never let that happen.

We’ve been chosen to rid the world of this cancer. We owe it to the patriots of our past to do this and to future generations who will have their own challenges on which to concentrate. This is the challenge for our time. I believe we’re up to the task. Servicemembers should please be assured that our support for them will be unshakable, as will our determination to bear any burden necessary to see this war through to victory. May God bless our servicemembers and our beautiful America.

Marisa HarrisHenderson, Nev.

DUI punishments unequal

DUIs seem to be a big problem in U.S. Army Europe. They’re on the rise. Here’s a question for anyone who can answer it. I have two friends, both with recent DUIs. One was a specialist in an infantry unit. The other is a sergeant in base support. Both are good, hard-working soldiers. Both just got their punishments for their DUIs. The specialist received the maximum punishment: 45 days of extra duty and the loss of all his rank. The sergeant received probation. The specialist has six kids and one on the way. The sergeant has one kid and this was his third offense.

What I take from these situations is that it’s all right for a noncommissioned officer to drink and drive. The punishment is just a mere slap on the wrist, while a lower-enlisted soldier gets set up for failure by putting his family in a financial bind. He’s set up for more problems and possibly another Article 15 for debt. I thought NCOs were supposed to lead us, be our role models and set an example. From what I thought I knew, there was no tolerance for NCOs — one strike and you’re out. This will be the NCO’s third. If the Army makes the rules, why don’t we follow them? Why punish one so harshly and not the other one? Could someone please explain this to me?

Spc. William D. ColsonHohenfels, Germany

October 9

Correcting soldier

I’m a specialist stationed near Landstuhl, Germany. I’m awaiting my points to become active so that I can get my chance to join the noncommissioned officer corps in the greatest military service in the world, my Army.

On Oct. 2, I was in my fourth day of combat lifesaver class at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The class was outside working on four-man litter carries. Halfway through the exercise, the group of soldiers I was working with (four NCOs and an E-1) noticed that there were three people in battle-dress uniforms walking toward our area of the field. Only one of them was wearing a headgear cover. This is wrong, as the field is at least 50 feet from any overhead cover, not counting the covered smoking area behind it. We speculated that the other two people were of another branch of service, as all soldiers in the U.S. Army know that, as per Army regulation 670-1, soldiers are to wear their headgear outdoors unless it presents a safety hazard.

I quickly noticed that one of the individuals was an Army captain. I pointed this out to the other soldiers in my group while they argued that it couldn’t be. When the three got closer to us, we noticed that they were an Army captain, an Air Force master sergeant, and an Army command sergeant major. The command sergeant major was the only individual under cover. One of the NCOs in my group, a high-speed E-5, decided to point this out to the CSM. He tactfully let her know the impression that was being given by the captain’s performance. The NCO was told that “she is with me” and “you all could be out here in kevlars, pro-masks, LBEs and flak vests,” or something to that effect.

Since when is this behavior acceptable? The average rank in this course is private first class. Is this the example we want to set for these impressionable soldiers? It’s my opinion that if it would have been a private or junior NCO with no cover, the situation would have been very different. The point is that the sergeant was doing his duty as an NCO, and as a senior NCO I feel that the CSM could have handled the situation differently.

It’s the responsibility of all soldiers, especially NCOs, to correct soldiers who are out of regulation, even one as simple as the proper wearing of military headgear. Either way one looks at it, the captain was wrong, and the CSM was wrong for not pointing it out. Starting in advanced individual training, we’re taught to make on-the-spot corrections regardless of rank or position. We’re taught to use tact and confidence in order to help each other remain squared away. With these soldiers seeing that they’ll be met with a harsh retort, they won’t correct these problems. The problems will persist, and those up-and-coming individuals, the future of our Army, will think that this is the standard and therefore must be acceptable.

Spc. Derek ThorneLandstuhl, Germany

Germany's opinion

This is in response to the letter “Germany’s rights” (Sept. 30). The writer was quite correct that Germany has the right to its own opinion, and I also believe that Germany’s economy is the envy of some countries. But I disagree that the United States envies Germany.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. dumped billions of dollars into rebuilding Germany. And no, it doesn’t owe us a thing. How could we Americans expect Germany to support us in anything? Germany did a great job of protesting the airstrikes in Yugoslavia, which were aimed at stopping the killing of Kosovar Albanians. I know Germany supplied some attack aircraft, but, by and large, it was an American operation. I’ve watched Europe’s ineptitude in dealing with problems in its own back yard.

How dare America ask its allies to help it in its time of need? What was the U.S. thinking? How dare we respond to the attacks on our nation? A war is considered immoral because we know Iraq sponsors terrorism and the United States doesn’t want to be attacked again? Hey, let’s all wait until the next attack and watch more Americans die. We know that U.N. resolutions won’t and haven’t worked in Iraq. A resolution without the force to back it is not worth the paper it’s printed on. But let’s do like Germany is doing. Let’s all pretend that there’s no problem, and maybe it will go away.

Sgt. 1st Class. Andrew T. TurrentineVilseck, Germany

October 10

Better barracks needed

I’d like to respond to the letter “Bowling alleys” (Oct. 4). I have to admit that the writer was right on when he said the command’s view dictates what gets money for improvements. But I have a problem with his solution.

The writer wants indoor swimming pools to replace bowling alleys as the recipients of money allotted for renovations. But with all the facilities we have now, soldiers’ Army physical fitness training — which is what we soldiers are all working toward — is only limited to an individual GI’s initiative. The majority of the gyms I’ve been in are more than adequate to achieve our end state.

So instead of building more or better training facilities, let’s put that $29 million the writer mentioned to better use. Isn’t it time we start really taking care of single soldiers by renovating the existing barracks? I have soldiers living in barracks that are not, in no stretch of the imagination, up to standard. It’s well known that a soldier’s morale is a driving force in the performance of his duties. When a soldier goes home every night to a run-down, cramped existence, where’s the motivation to excel? When I do barracks checks, I’m appalled by the living conditions. I find myself apologizing for the living conditions while at the same time telling my soldiers that they need to keep their areas up to Army standards.

I have no problem with swimming pools, but let’s take care of what really makes the Army effective. Let’s get the barracks here in U.S. Army Europe up to the standard that soldiers are used to in the majority of units in the United States. We need to “take care of the riders before we take care of the horses.”

Staff Sgt. John MillerKitzingen, Germany

Housing area trash

On Sept. 3, I had the distinct, albeit embarrassing privilege of seeing the soldiers of the 1/118th hard at work. A platoon-sized element walked around Askren Manors housing area in Schweinfurt, Germany, doing the “black bag shuffle.” What’s that? It’s police call. But not the police call of picking up gum wrappers and cigarette butts. Oh, no. These soldiers were cleaning up the trash strewn from one end of this housing area to the other by the residents who live here.

I thought we had a base-support battalion sergeant major and commander. They must be either deployed, don’t live in Askren Manors or drive to their quarters in the most direct route wearing blinders. The standards, or lack thereof, can only be likened to an absentee landlord situation. Maybe it helps some residents feel more at home by making this housing area an annex of a stateside slum.

It’s shocking to drive through Askren Manors and see trash pits with garbage cans overflowing with recyclables or bags of trash on the ground because people are too lazy to ensure they go in a can. It’s not like we don’t have a recycling center within walking distance of all residents. Maybe the hours of operation are too inconvenient, since some people feel they need to leave their trash outside the gate when the center is closed. The large sign, which clearly states, “Dumping of trash is prohibited,” is obviously just a suggestion.

Playgrounds are also littered with everything from broken beer bottles to condoms to plastic bags of dog poop. There seems to be some belief that dependents don’t have to clean up or are not accountable. I thought we were. But maybe I’m mistaken, as there seems to be few consequences for living like slobs, allowing children to run through other residents’ stairwells tearing up other peoples’ property, and not cleaning up after their dogs.

It’s disheartening to go to a post like Leighton Barracks in Würzburg and see nicely manicured, clean yards with flowers, and then return to “Trashcan Manors” and see that the neighbor kids have girdled the bark off of trees out of boredom. Forget planting flowers. Been there, done that. Either the kids will destroy them or the residents will allow their dogs to urinate on them. Am I exaggerating? I wish I were.

Building coordinators have little more authority than dependents. Approaching violators usually results in lip service or a lackadaisical attitude, like, “How dare you expect me to do police call? I’m an Army of one. I can’t be expected to report for duty and keep my living area clean, too.” Command sponsorship used to be a privilege. Some people act as though it’s their God-given, inalienable right.

Hopefully, conditions will improve here. In the meantime, let me thank those soldiers who had to come here to clean up after us. I’m sure their sergeant’s-time training day could have been better utilized. So with a red face, I say, “Thanks. Hooah!”

Sharyn J. DouttSchweinfurt, Germany

Departing Germany

As my family and I depart Germany, we’d like to thank some people and agencies for their assistance. The past four years have been wonderful because of the support we received from several agencies. I’ve filled out numerous customer comment cards, but I also want to thank them in this forum. They are all the best ever and deserve praise.

Ray Cook at BMW Military Car Sales in Darmstadt provided exceptional customer service. He was informed that I was coming back to Germany in 1998, and he was there at the airport with a van to transport my family and I. When I shipped my car, he provided us with an auto to use during our out-processing. I recommend anyone who’s looking to buy a car to contact Ray. He’s also very community-minded and believes in giving back to the community.

The Personnel Services Battalion in Wiesbaden is the best ever. Its workers were always helpful, knowledgable and friendly. I want to thank Mr. Fitchett, Mr. Garcia, Staff Sgt. Scott, Sgt. Harris, Spc. Stokes and Spc. Redwood. The entire staff is great, including the passport and ID card sections. Thanks also to Ms. Smith and Mr. Woods in the in-processing and out-processing center.

Housing was great. Even though it was faced with an influx of another division, its workers were always polite and very efficient toward our family and my soldiers. I want to thank Ms. Corbin, Ms. Sooriyah, Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Lamont, Ms. Petrovic and Ms. Chico.

Transportation was very patient during both of my moves, even though I changed dates three times. Thanks to Mr. Wolf, Mr. Schuss, Mr. Klein and the entire BK crew.

At the health clinic, Dr. Urbatsch is the best physician I’ve been to in my entire military career. Her care for my soldiers and I was excellent. Spc. Moss was always a professional. Even when records couldn’t be found, she never panicked. The staff was also helpful to my wife in her time of need.

Wildman’s Trophy and Plaque shop on base was also very supportive of the units on base. Mr. Atta and Mr. Kaufman were always willing to give donations to unit organizational events.

At the Tony Bass Fitness Center, thanks to Ms. Tracey and my tai-bo instructors, Ms. Steffi and Ms. Isabel. Thanks for keeping me in the gym and off the snacks.

Thanks also to the Landstuhl Nutritional Department for providing me with a lifestyle nutritional program that I can live with. I recommend it highly to those who want to lose weight or just eat healthier.

Thanks to the Department of Defense Dependents Schools staff for their patience and understanding of all situations. Special thanks to Ms. Hickman, Dr. Sessions, Ms. Oberfell and the Kitelsons for caring so much.

Lastly, I want to thank members of the Family Readiness Group of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Division Support Command for their hard work. Lynn Gleason, Debbie Gagnon and Jenny Dowd have worked miracles in trying to form this very important group. They should keep it going. God bless them all.

Staff Sgt. Barry SanfordWiesbaden, Germany

October 11

Commander has no heart

I was recently diagnosed with a serious health condition. Within a couple of days, I had to be at a Bamberg, Germany, health clinic for surgery. My doctor and surgeon instructed me not to carry any heavy loads for at least six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, my husband started the paperwork for an exception to policy to get a washer and dryer installed in our government-leased third-floor apartment. The laundry room is in the basement, so that’s four flights of stairs. The first problem we ran into was our base support battalion commander’s policy, which says, “Letters from attending physicians, military or civilian, are not sufficient.” That’s strange. The Bamberg Health Clinic is in every clinic for Tricare providers for the Bamberg community, but its German doctors aren’t good enough to write a doctor’s certificate.

Maj. Wallace at the Bamberg Health Clinic was the only one who could review the certificate, and he agreed with the German doctors’ decision that for at least eight weeks I shouldn’t carry anything heavy. Once again, the BSB commander’s policy letter said, “Requests based on medical conditions must be supported by a memorandum from the commander of the Bamberg Health Clinic citing short and long-term benefits derived from granting the exception.” In its recommendation to the BSB commander, housing and the Directorate of Public Works also worked very hard to help get the approval of our exception to policy, stating, “that washer and dryer will be staying in the apartment until servicemember’s termination of the quarters.”

The BSB commander approved the exception to policy with the following condition: “Approved installation through 3 December 2002. Failure of SM to arrange for de-installation and pick-up of washer/dryer by 17 December 2002 will result in SM receiving charges up to the total installation/de-installation cost of 211.67 euros.” The word “will” was underlined three times.

I always thought a base commander is there for the well-being of a community’s soldiers and their family members. A commander with a heart would have written, “Upon family member’s full recovery, the washer and dryer will be returned.” Nobody else in the Bamberg community has ever returned a washer and dryer before they left Bamberg. Talk about a waste of taxpayers’ money.

How in the world does the BSB commander know that I will be fully recovered by that time? And where did he get that euro charge when the community is supposed to be there and help in situations like this?

All I can say to the BSB commander is that I pray he and his wife or partner never have to go through something like this.

Ursula SreavesBamberg, Germany

Shelton's medal

I’m writing in response to the article “Shelton overcomes severe spinal injury” (Oct. 6). The story said that Gen. Hugh Shelton received the Medal of Honor “in honor of his 38 years of military service.” I was ready to question the integrity of Congress for bestowing America’s highest honor for actions that seemed less than deserving of the nation’s highest honor. But while researching this, I found out that it seems to be a misprint by Stars and Stripes. Shelton actually received the Congressional Gold Medal, an honor in itself, but not nearly as prestigious as the Congressional Medal of Honor. The picture that was published with the story showed this obvious mistake that should have been caught by a paper which serves predominantly military personnel. The Medal of Honor is only presented by the president, not a congressman, as stated in the awards manual. I expect better research and accurate articles from a paper that serves military personnel, especially when dealing with such a high honor. The Web site, www.clerkweb.house.gov/histHigh/Congressional_History/goldMedal.php, shows that Shelton was actually awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, not the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I’m glad I did a little research, which the reporter should have done, before going off the handle and making a fool out of myself by sending a letter to every publication I could find. I wish I could say the same for Stripes. I think Stripes owes an apology to its readers, and more so to Shelton. At first, I questioned his integrity for accepting what I thought was an award for actions that seemed less than deserving of the Medal of Honor. As it turns out, Shelton accepted an award that he deserved for his hard work and dedication to the U.S. Army. I hope that in the future Stripes will do a better job of editing its articles and not misinforming its readers.

Scott CyrNaples, Italy

October 12

Teacher staffing

This is in response to the letter “School staffing” (Sept. 3). I agree with the writer regarding the school staffing situation. Being an early childhood teacher myself, I agree that it’s of the utmost importance that all classrooms, specifically pre-kinder/kindergarten, should have a small student-to-teacher ratio. It’s impossible for students to receive the one-on-one instruction that they so much deserve when the number of students to teacher is so high. Although kindergarten teachers each have an aide in the classroom, this is not sufficient. The teacher is the one who’s ultimately responsible for children’s learning, and the children are the ones being robbed of a good education.

I encountered the same problem while working in El Paso, Texas. One year my student ratio was 25-to-1 in half-day pre-kindergarten. I became a member of the campus improvement team. With the support of the principal, parents, faculty and staff, we were able to “cap” our student-to-teacher ratio at 18-to-1.

I urge parents to voice their concerns and become involved in their children’s schools, PTAs, committees, etc., and demand a better education for their children. I don’t understand why this problem exists when there are plenty of certified teachers who are willing to work. I’m one of them. I accompanied my husband on his overseas tour with the hopes of working for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, and I’m still waiting.

Ana UrbanGiebelstadt, Germany

Americans' cowardice

The words of U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III should be emblazoned on the front of every newspaper in the United States. He said, “You were willing to give your life for the Taliban but not for your country.” This is an apt description of being a coward.

This was Judge Ellis’ response to John Walker Lindh, who had volunteered to join the Taliban fighters, then couldn’t leave because he feared for his life after the United States entered the war in Afghanistan. But then he did nothing to warn the United States about future al-Qaida terror attacks planned after Sept. 11, 2001. This is an American who has embarrassed America by showing his cowardice. With the full knowledge that there are many fellow Americans who are and have given their lives in service of their country, Lindh hid from his duty as an American.

To further demonstrate that cowardice is a disease that has infected American society, we now have the news of a sniper shooting a 72-year-old Washington, D.C., man. According to CNN, “this same sniper has been linked to five earlier shooting deaths in nearby Montgomery County, Md., and police said on Friday that the same high-powered rifle was used in at least four of the killings.” Now we have a person or persons who show the ability to kill by selecting the most vulnerable targets, then terminating the victims’ lives, loves and dreams from a distance.

Of course, we’ll expect the pro-gun lobbyists to be out in full force in a few days with the hackneyed excuses for maintaining all types of firearms. “Enforce the gun laws presently on the books,” is a frequent war cry tossed out in defense of holding onto their most prized assault weapons. This seems to be their only way of dealing with gun control lobbyists, who will just as readily be coming out soon with their crying towels. “We need to control guns” is the chant we can expect to hear as they make every effort to eliminate what the Constitution wanted to protect. (Of course, the purpose was different in the 18th century).

“Enforcing the laws” does not bring back a 72-year-old man to his family. This sniper may have had the legal right to learn how to use his weapon, but there’s nothing to explain the cowardice that infiltrated his mind.

Being a U.S. citizen is a gift. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer immunity to being a coward. That infectious disease has been brought on by many different aspects in American society. But from my perspective, it would be nice to bring back the draft. Maybe that would help teach more people a different concept: bravery.

William HatchettNauheim, Germany

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