Regarding the Jan. 14 letter “Don’t show GIs flouting safety”: I would like to ask the letter writer when was the last time he was directly attacked while at a combat outpost. As someone who has been in situations where you are being directly fired upon, I can attest that your first reaction is to grab your gear and shoot back as fast and as much as you can, overwhelming the enemy with superior firepower. Asking the person who is trying to kill you to hold on while you put on your kevlar is not an option.

Without being there and knowing the specifics of the attack, I find the letter writer’s judgment of these soldiers to be unfair, uninformed and demeaning of their courage and bravery.

As a noncommissioned officer, it is my job to make sure that everyone is in the right uniform. That being said, I would never pass judgment in the way the letter writer has, not without knowing the facts. The letter writer suggests that the picture was staged and mockingly states that they had their “cool sunglasses on.” The language could almost make the reader think that he is somewhat jealous of them.

Only the few who were in that firefight know what truly happened and the circumstances surrounding it.

The letter writer points out that he sees the motionless soldiers in hospital beds. Stars and Stripes is pointing out to the reader how brutally real and extreme the hostility is in Afghanistan. It is not the job of Stars and Stripes to censor a photo because of a uniform violation.

Sgt. Kevin Averre

Taji, Iraq

Photo shows what comes first

Regarding the Jan. 14 letter “Don’t show GIs flouting safety”: It is apparent that the letter writer has never lived on a combat outpost and had to run outside to defend it from an enemy attack. I agree that the soldiers do not have their helmets on. In moments like this, during deployments, the only one who has a vote on when the attack is going to start is the enemy. The only thing going through your mind is, “I have to get out there and defend my brothers.”

Stars and Stripes has posted pictures of the Female Engagement Teams out in sector on foot patrols with no helmets on. Why has the letter writer not mentioned this? The FETs have plenty of time to prepare to go out in sector and do the patrol, and yet nobody mentions it. In fact, they think that it is great that they are out there like that.

I have no doubt that the letter writer has seen very bad wounds sustained in combat operations. But I am willing to bet he has never experienced combat firsthand like the young soldiers who live out in these remote areas. It would be nice if the enemy would send out memos that had the times of their attacks on these combat outposts, so the soldiers could have enough time to have all of their gear on and be in position by the time the attack starts, but we all know this is not the way it works.

I am on my fourth deployment, and I have had to run out to defend the place in which my soldiers and I were living. If you are in PTs, that is what you fight in.

As far as their eye wear, well, the soldier on the left has Authorized Protective Eyewear List-approved U.S. Army-issued eye protection on, and the one on the right has his issued eye wear on.

A picture paints a thousand words. Why is it some want to focus on what is wrong in the picture? Let’s look at the picture and try to see what is going on all around them. If you have never been in a real firefight, you cannot understand how fast things happen. You can plan for everything but, when that first bullet flies, your plans go out the window. We don’t fight the plan, we fight the fight.

I understand uniform standards, but I also have firsthand experience defending combat outposts. Until you stand where they stand and are asked to do the things they do, it is impossible to understand what is going on in that picture.

Staff Sgt. David A. Begley

Zabul province, Afghanistan

Enact safe supplement system

After reading the Jan. 9 article “To take or not to take: Supplements may boost energy but strain troops’ hearts,” I’d like to address a large concern that was not discussed in the article. While we can have a lengthy debate on the pros and cons of supplements, many of which are being studied right now to see how they can benefit our troops (see below), the fact remains that soldiers will continue to use supplements, with good reason.

Similarly, they will continue to use over-the-counter (OTC) products like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. With that in mind, in 2008 the Institute of Medicine recommended the military have a system in place to report, analyze and identify concerns associated with the use of OTC products and dietary supplements within the military.

Such a system, commonly known as an adverse event reporting (AER) system, would enable the military to accurately and swiftly identify the source or sources of a particular health risk signal with a particular product, should one exist. As it concludes in the report, “Until such a system or approach is in place, our service members will continue to make decisions about their own health without knowing the risks and benefits associated with supplements under military contexts, potentially compromising their performance and the resulting success of military operations. … It is important that the DoD implement a system to learn how dietary supplements affect military personnel and to ensure their safe use.”

Per the Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act, civilians currently have such a system in place should there be any potential risk with an OTC or dietary supplement product. However, in the three years since the IOM recommendation, the military still does not have such a system in place.

Don’t our military’s best and brightest, who are fighting for us on the front lines every day, deserve the same protection that all U.S. civilians currently have?

Daniel Fabricant

Vice president

Global government & scientific affairs

Natural Products Association


Only use supplements properly

I just read the Jan. 9 article “To take or not to take: Supplements may boost energy but strain troops’ hearts” about the thermogenic supplements. As someone who is a certified personal trainer and has a master’s in sports and exercise studies, I have used (as well as recommended) thermogenic supplements in the past for only those who needed help with fat loss (not weight loss). Even then, I warn people that these supplements are not effective without a proper, healthy diet and a proper exercise regime. I have never personally recommended it for any other purpose — since that is the explicit purpose of the type of supplement.

As I read about these studies, it makes me wonder if the supplement users:

1) Had pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.

2) Were taking more than the recommended dosage.

3) Were taking caffeine with them (i.e. energy drinks).

And there are a host of other things that can provide answers as to why anyone would die using a natural supplement.

Supplements themselves are safe, but there are external factors that make them unsafe. Servicemembers need to be warned of that, not told to stay away from things that can enhance their overall health and well-being. Before exchanges think of banning them, they should ban substances that they sale that we know are dangerous to people’s health — namely tobacco and alcohol. Those kill thousands annually, not the handful that may or may not be linked to a healthy food supplement.

Chaplain (Capt.) Bryan S. Kimblw

Mosul, Iraq

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