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Support troops shortchangedI subscribe to your publication because I like the way you tell the soldiers’ stories.

But lately all you focus on is combat soldiers. In Grafenwöhr, Germany, it’s said that if you’re not a member of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, you’re nothing. And throughout the military it seems that if you aren’t in a combat military occupational specialty, you’re nothing. Why is that?

The support guys are the true battle soldier. Truck drivers or fuelers probably have the toughest and most dangerous jobs. They are on the road all the time. Most of the time they are outside the wire more than most grunts or tankers. They also pull most of their own convoy security, but they get the least amount of credit.

I was with tankers and grunts in Operation Iraqi Freedom I as part of their support platoon. I was outside the wire and was engaged in more hostile situations than most of the guys I was supporting. When am I going to pick up Stars and Stripes and see a convoy of trucks or fuelers?

They don’t call support soldiers the lifeline of the Army for nothing. We deserve our time to shine. A grunt can’t shoot without bullets and a tanker can’t roll without fuel.

Spc. Jeremy Bryson Grafenwöhr, Germany

AAFES’ policy inconvenientThe Army and Air Force Exchange Service has a return policy that may not be appealing to a lot of people during or after the holidays.

Most items sit under a tree for days or weeks until the great day of Dec. 25. Items purchased on Black Friday might not be able to be returned or exchanged due to AAFES’ policy. This policy inconveniences customers and can become costly when items must be shipped back to the manufacturer for repairs. Receipts are required for exchange or refunds as verification of purchase but might be impossible to attain when the item was a gift. Below is AAFES’ exchange or refund policy:

“An even exchange or refund can be made within 90 days except for the following:

“15 days: computers and unopened software/peripherals, iPods, unopened prerecorded music/videos/videogames. …

“30 days: Jewelry and watches, camcorders, televisions, digital cameras, furniture, mattresses, major appliances and gas powered equipment.

“Gift cards, prepaid music, wireless and phone cards are not refundable.

“Verification of purchase required (receipt, order number, customer notification).”

Elizabeth Garcia Heidelberg, Germany

M-4 results not surprisingI finished reading “M-4 performs worst in ‘extreme dust test’” (article, Dec. 19) and have one question: Does the outcome of this test surprise anyone who has used this weapon in its various incarnations since its fielding in the 1960s? Everyone knows it does not perform well any time it is not spotlessly clean.

What would be interesting news is how this group of modern weapons faired against tried-and-true designs, such as any member of the M14, AK-47, FN-FAL, L22 or Steyr Stg.77 families (or any one of their derivatives — especially the Israeli incarnation of the AK-47).

And while we are stabbing the sacred M-4 cow, why not compare ammunition? Seeing how the new 6.8x43, 7.62x39, 7.62x51 or even 7.92x33 faired against our 5.56x54 would offer interesting results not only in effective range but also knockdown power at range, weight, accuracy and resistance to fouling (reliability).

The .223 (5.56x54) is a great varmint round for game up to maybe 100 pounds, but does not have enough knockdown power against anything bigger. It does not matter if you can carry more rounds (the original reason given for adopting the 5.56 instead of the 7.62) if they can’t take what you are shooting at out of the fight.

I relish that we are finally having discussions about the reliability (or lack thereof) of the M-4, but challenge the Army to look at all options and not limit ourselves.

The M16 has been commercially successful, but go to any Army rifle range and look at the number of malfunctions.

A 98 percent fire rate is unacceptable when the enemy is shooting at you. And I have a feeling the people performing the tests would agree if the bullets were whizzing by their heads.

Capt. Eric Olsen Balad, Iraq

Pregnancies and pro athletesIt seems we’ve seen so many columns criticizing Hollywood starlets’ unplanned pregnancies and how to explain this phenomenon to our kids (“Pregnant pauses courtesy of Jamie Lynn and Juno,” Opinion, Ruth Marcus, Dec. 28). What I haven’t read in Stars and Stripes (or any other paper) are columns critical of the unwed and unplanned fathers ever-present in professional sports. There seems to be a glaring double standard in the media these days.

Where are the hard-hitting articles about guys like Tom Brady, Brian Urlacher, Matt Leinart and Ricky Williams? What are the messages we are sending to the male youth of America? Apparently, as long as you can play at the top of your game, without worrying about trivial headaches such as pregnant ex-girlfriends (or more commonly, pregnant one-night stands), you will receive the praise of all the media and won’t receive any scrutiny for your poor planning, poor judgment and loose morals.

Just once I would like to see a newspaper hold professional athletes to the same moral standards as everyone else in the spotlight. How can we ever expect to see our male youth stand up and take responsibility for their actions when we don’t even hold their role models (who are grown men making millions of dollars) to the same responsibility bar we do 16-year-old girls?

Until men realize that the most important job a father has in the entire world is to be a good father — to raise his child to be a good citizen and a productive member of society — we will never solve the ethics problem in America. No wonder America’s values are steadily declining! And as always, the media has nothing to do with it, they just report the facts … well, sometimes.

First Lt. Bill Cosens Ramstein, Germany

‘There is always bad news’I was awed by the reaction that the writer of “Butchered-tiger story upsetting” (letter, Jan. 3) had. Who wouldn’t be upset with the murder of a tiger, but the writer’s reaction that “I’d rather not pick up Stars and Stripes again” or “I would appreciate a newspaper that did not include bad news” — I am not sure what world the writer lives in, but there is always bad news. If there is a world that does not have some bad news everyday, maybe we should all just move there.

I think the writer needs to face the fact that he or she is in a war zone. I wish the writer the best, but really, just realize that there is always some bad somewhere. The writer should learn to deal with it.

Iliana Garcia Mannheim, Germany

Army Force Network?[During the time leading up to the Army/Navy game in December], I saw quite a few commercials on American Forces Network hyping the game.

In all those promo shots, I saw many biased for the Army and only one in favor of the Navy. I don’t want to speak for all Navy veterans, but since I am in Iraq and AFN is the only TV I can watch, it would be nice if there was a balance in its opinion of the Army and Navy. After all, there is more than one branch of military here. Is it too much to ask AFN to be the American Forces Network instead of the Army Force Network?

Timothy Dralle Al Taqaddum, Iraq


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