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Letters to the Editor for Friday, July 13, 2007

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 13, 2007

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR?S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

Army planning needs new look

I read the article on the housing shortage (“Army buildup leads to housing shortage,” June 28, European edition) and it really upsets me to see how the Army is handling this situation, though I’m not surprised. It is handling it much like the global war on terrorism — with no planning.

I arrived in Europe in May and, though we were not faced with a housing issue, we were faced with other issues that directly affected our family. For example, when we shipped our vehicle here, no one told us that it would be considered “oversized,” due to an after-market addition. We had to pay some of the shipping costs. Had the transportation office made this clear, we could have saved a lot of money. On top of this, I had to wait for five hours just to be seen at the vehicle registration office to register my “oversized” vehicle because there were so many people coming and going, and the office had only one clerk.

Planning: If the command knows that this many people will be moving in and out of the area, then why were there not more employees or temporary help assigned? Planning: I still have not received my household goods because there are not enough movers to support all the moves. The list of complaints goes on, too long for Stars and Stripes, maybe just right for The New York Times. The Army leadership and planners should be very aware of the logistical requirements of moving soldiers and families. This is not the first year that the Army has been in Germany.

I highly suggest that the Army transformation planners take a couple of steps back and look at the effect their lack of planning has on its soldiers. The Army’s retention rate is not getting any better, and messing with the families will not help.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph C. Garcia (retired)
Wiesbaden, Germany

Rules hurt soldier’s family

I’m writing this mainly because I think this message needs to get out to anyone who cares. I recently got married to a local national, whom I love very much. Unfortunately, the wedding was four months before my date ending overseas service, and U.S. Army Europe will not command-sponsor my wife. So because of this, which I still do not understand, my wife and I cannot get housing, she cannot get the correct medical care (which I can) and a few other things.

So meanwhile we’re having to live in a small apartment in the basement of her parents’ house, some 25 minutes from where I work. Just try to imagine all of her belongings, plus a lot of mine, in a small basement. It’s not fun.

We are scheduled to leave Germany this month, and I have to pay out of my pocket for an airline ticket for her to the United States. I’m a specialist, and make roughly $2,500 a month. Do the math, and it is obvious this is not easy. Then I found out transportation won’t ship our belongings until another month after my DEROS because of the backlog caused by so many people leaving Hessen. My wife already canceled her life insurance, car insurance, sold her car etc., and now she has to fly to the States on the paid plane ticket without me. All because of some policies made by bigwigs in USAREUR.

Talk about taking care of families. They sure haven’t for this stressed-out combat veteran. USAREUR really needs to take its head out of its four points of contact and start helping military families more.

Spc. Kevin Kalstek
Hanau, Germany

Report illegal use of stores

In reply to “Visitors in PX, commissary” (letter, June 19) complaining about local nationals shopping at post facilities, the writer made no mention of contacting the proper authorities about the alleged actions she witnessed. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Defense Commissary Agency do a fantastic job controlling access to our facilities and checking ID cards. A simple call to the local law enforcement desk is all that one need do to deter further abuse if there is any.

The way that the letter was written leads me to believe that the writer may be frustrated by the spiraling value of the dollar; it is quickly becoming a Third World currency. I was in Europe when the dollar was much higher than today and nobody complained when we took advantage of our buying power. We would go to the French commissary and buy case upon case of wine with our mighty dollars.

We have a more than capable law enforcement force and programs such as Eagle Eyes in our community that are in place to handle cases such as black marketing. Petty bickering and complaining about local nationals serves no one; if one does not know the status of an individual because of the language they use or the color of their skin, they should ask themselves why they are worrying. If you believe someone is committing illegal acts, you should report it to the authorities. We do preach in America that you are innocent until proven guilty, don’t we?

Charles Baumgardner
Ramstein, Germany

Atheist ‘revival’ bad for U.S.

I have to say that I was very disturbed to read the article “Atheists are happy campers at Ohio retreat” (July 8). From just looking at the picture next to the article with the children playing together, you would think that they were just at an outside function participating in a fun activity. But when I read the article, I found there is a lot more to it than that.

The author of the article seems to be overjoyed and ecstatic about young teenagers being at a summer camp where the existence of God is happily denied and refuted, speaking of a revival of atheism and Camp Quest (the name of the summer camp) being a training ground for the atheist movement. How sad to see yet another example of God being kicked out and pushed aside in our society, and young kids being taught — or, in my opinion, brainwashed — to do it.

I wonder how long it will be before America becomes a completely secular society when I see and read things like the Camp Quest article. We already have people fighting daily to remove God from our money, the Pledge of Allegiance and more. As one girl who was quoted in the article stated, “This year, I stopped getting up and saying the pledge,” because it includes the words “under God” in it.

Like it or not, our nation was founded under God, upon Christian principles and values, and yet it seems people, such as the ones who founded Camp Quest, continue to ignore and defy it and encourage others to do the same. It seems to me a nation that forgets what made it great is destined to fail.

Spc. Matthew B. Cravens
Hanau, Germany

Thanks to concert promoters

I just wanted to say a big thank you to Stars for Stripes for its help in bringing us the Josh Gracin concert here on July 4. Josh mentioned that he tried a lot of times to get out and play for us, but had no luck. But he gets in touch with Stars for Stripes, and gets results. The concert was a blast, and a huge uplift of my and everyone else’s spirits for the holiday. I probably would have sat in my room all alone, bored and depressed if he wasn’t here to play.

The Fourth has always been a big holiday that all of my family gets together for and celebrates. I’m glad I had something to go and do and celebrate the holiday with. Thanks again for helping Josh help us, with great music and some fun.

Spc. Lacy Romero
Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq

Pacific edition

Horizontal holsters unsafe

The writer of “Holster is not the problem,” (letter, July 2) berates an earlier writer (“Don Johnson holster isn’t cool,” June 27) for his “rear echelon” mentality. Yet looking at the signature lines, one sees that while the first writer is in safe, secure Iraq the second is kicking doors and shooting insurgents on the front lines of … Kuwait? Hmm.

And I don’t know how many convoys the good major who wrote the second letter has been on lately but, in my battalion we wear our pistols either on drop-leg holsters or attached to our outer tactical vest (pointed downward), not in a $30 horizontal shoulder holster purchased at the local “haji shop,” which, although blatantly unsafe, apparently beats paying the $100-plus for a high-quality (and safe) Galco leather vertical rig or wearing the government-issued drop-leg holster.

I’m the weapons officer for my battalion, and I hate horizontal rigs. I hate standing in formation or a chow line with the pistol of the guy in front of me pointing at my chest — hands off or not. To refute the major’s point about hands on the weapon — someone’s hand is on the weapon every time it is drawn to clear, clean or load. By his logic he’d be all right with me walking into his office and laying my M-9 on his desk, with the M-9 pointing at him — no hands, no problem, right?

Let me negate the “but it isn’t loaded” argument that someone may offer in contention of my position. The first of the four rules of weapon safety is “treat every weapon as if it were loaded.” Regardless of whether you know that the weapon is condition four, it should never, under any circumstances, be pointed at someone.

The first writer isn’t being rude or a poor leader when he says that following the four rules of weapons safety guarantees no one will get shot by a negligent discharge — it’s the truth.

Lt. Brendan Hering
Al Asad, Iraq

If used right, holster’s safe

I read with amusement the letter “Don Johnson holster isn’t cool,” concerning the supposed “dangers” of horizontal shoulder holsters as typified by Galco’s Miami Classic (derisively referred to as the “Don Johnson” holster). I am a mobilized National Guardsman from Arizona, and my civilian employer is Galco International. Contrary to the opinions of a few “hoplophobic” servicemembers, the horizontal shoulder holster is perfectly safe, provided that long-accepted safe firearms-handing practices are used. These same handling practices are required for safe use of any holster design.

In addition to making factual errors in recounting the history of the holster in question, the writer errs in his view of the horizontal shoulder holster as unsafe. Someone of the writer’s training level should be familiar with an old expression in the firearms world: “A holstered weapon is a safe weapon.” A mechanically sound pistol resting in a secured holster that encloses the trigger guard, as the Miami Classic does, is as safe as any deadly weapon can be. There have been precisely zero recorded instances of firearms, military or otherwise, spontaneously discharging while resting in one of the tens of thousands of Miami Classics currently in use.

Horizontal shoulder holsters offer several advantages over the more traditional vertical style. Most important to servicemembers, horizontal holsters are much more comfortable for many people to wear. This is because the pistol is held so that its lesser dimension — height — is on the long axis of the body, making it very comfortable and unobtrusive, especially for those of shorter stature. The many female servicemembers who prefer it also generally do so for reasons of comfort and convenience.

If certain servicemembers are so terrified of weapons that they can’t bear to look at an inert, safely holstered pistol, perhaps they should reconsider their line of work.

Spc. Michael Barham
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Ban holster before it’s too late

Yes, Major, the problem is the holster (“Holster is not the problem,” letter). No matter the justification for wearing the cool, facing-at-the-chest-of-the-person-behind-you holster is, it is dangerous. It is my opinion, and the opinion of a great many people, that they should be banned by the military and not have to wait until a person is shot in the chest to do so.

I am not a “garrison soldier.” I am former Army with 3½ years in combat in Vietnam. I wore a 9 mm, a .25-cal and an M-14. The pistols I wore in a cross-chest holster, very easy to get at, or in a hip holster also easy to get at, and the holsters were secured so they did not flop when I drew the weapon (and I did on many occasions).

I have been here with operations Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom for nearly four years. I have seen a total of 19 accidental weapons firings — six were pistols. Three of the pistols were fired in the mess hall, the others were fired at the clearing barrels and not into them. Only by the grace of God, no one was injured in any of them. Three of the pistols were being carried by officers, so no more excuses: Get rid of the holsters before it is too late for someone. I have had to write some of those letters; I hope the letter writer never does.

Kenneth Leftwich
Camp Buehring, Kuwait

Weapon handling key to safety

Read these three words: proper safety procedures.

Placing a 9 mm in a holster around your chest or leg, or placing an M16A2 on the floor or keeping the M16A2 sling around your neck will not prevent an accident. Ensuring the owner of the weapon is following proper safety procedures by clearing his/her weapon will help prevent an accidental discharge. Ensuring owners practice proper procedures to identify/prevent malfunctions will be proactive.

While on the subject of safety and prevention, please use a holster where the 9 mm muzzle points to the ground at all times and not at someone else’s head or chest. Keep your M16A2 pointed to the ground at all times, not at someone else’s knees. Safety is every soldier’s business.

I imagine the next argument will be the possibility of shooting your own feet.

Sgt. 1st Class Victor RodriguezTorres
Camp Victory, Iraq

Medication didn’t make it

Again, our military postal handlers have had their way with someone’s mail. You know the funny thing is that I’m a 60-year-old person, yet the U.S. Postal Service has not lost or severely damaged one single package of mine. Add to that the fact that I never received a damaged or lost package while spending 15 months in Vietnam. One of the reasons I suspect is that packages did not have a packing slip on the outside listing all the goodies that the postal handlers could help themselves to.

Now I have a package missing. My wife put “medicine and vitamins” on the package slip like you’re supposed to do. Lo and behold, someone sees the label and thinks there is something that they can get high on. … Sorry, Charlie, it’s blood pressure medicine and some glucosamine and chondroitin, none of which a kid in his 20s could use. But, don’t let me stop you, feel free to overdose.

I received a package that was mailed two weeks after the missing one. No one can tell me that the personnel handling the mail do not read what is on the shipping form for goodies. Far too many folks have valuables go missing when other stuff gets left alone. I mailed the USPS postmaster general in Washington, and was told that after a package leaves the military post office, it’s military only! Thanks again, military postal people, you do your country proud.

Richard Martin
Camp Cedar II, Iraq