Letters to the Editor for Tuesday, July 19, 2005


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)

Problems with furniture order

Recently I ordered a table at Vogelweh, Germany. I wanted it shipped to Robinson Barracks so it could be easily delivered to my home near Stuttgart.

The folks at Vogelweh said that my table should arrive in six to eight weeks. I received no paperwork.

Three months went by and I decided it was time to check on my table. I called the Robinson exchange and they had no idea where it might be. After browsing the Internet and calling a few Ramstein and Vogelweh facilities, I got hold of the Vogelweh Furniture Store. Apparently, they are unable to locate an order without a date or a document number.

It was not made clear to me when I ordered the table that I had to track the order date or document number. I’m no expert, but a database that supports by-customer lookup doesn’t seem beyond the capabilities of modern software technology. I suppose I could even write the Army and Air Force Exchange Service one myself, if the price was right.

While I managed to find the date of order after extensive searching, and AAFES personnel were courteous and helpful, the experience was annoying enough for me to want to record it.

If you go to Vogelweh and order furniture, make sure to get some documentation to track the order, or at least record the date you ordered. AAFES should modernize its database so it can look up orders by customer name or, at the very least, ensure that all customers are provided with the paperwork necessary to track their orders. Most of my colleagues mentioned encountering frustrations through similar experiences ordering furniture through AAFES.

Samuel Adams
Stuttgart, Germany

Thrilled with Tour de France

The Tour de France is in full swing, and if you ever get a chance to check out a stage, I recommend it now that I have done just that (with the local Outdoor Rec office). Be a part of the crowd, and tell your friends that you had a chance to watch in person one of the most celebrated sporting events in the world.

Should you ever get a chance to watch as the participants of the world’s most famous bike race roll by, there will be one irrefutable difference — the individual wearing the yellow jersey. In person, the yellow jersey almost glows. Perhaps a camera lens simply doesn’t do justice to the vibrant color of the jersey, or perhaps the radiance of the shirt has less to do with the fabric it’s made of and more to do with the guy who was wearing it the day I was able to watch the race.

Lance Armstrong hasn’t just transcended his sport; he’s transcended all sports, and has a way of reminding us that there is more to life than sports. I was no more than 12 feet away from not just one of the greatest athletes of his generation, but also one of the great humanitarians of his era. I stood there and watched him roll by. The whole experience lasted no more than 30 seconds.

Did I get a picture of the occasion? No, but somehow, a picture just wouldn’t work. Not only do I now know that a picture wouldn’t quite capture the brilliance of the yellow jersey itself, but would I really want to ruin the moment (and possibly miss part of it) by looking through a camera?

So there I stood, enjoying every second of what will undoubtedly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Airman 1st Class Ryan Spear
Kaiserslautern, Germany

How about 5 kph?

According to our high command, slower speed limits are the means to solving all vehicle-related problems in U.S. Army Europe. The more we lower posted speed limits and hide our military police in bushes and behind Dumpsters, the safer we are.

So why stop at 30 kilometers per hour? Why not restrict all speed limits on post to 15 kph, or even 5. If everyone drove 5 kph on post, we could prevent all of the 10 car pileups in front of the general’s house. Oh wait, there has never been one. But if we drove so slow that you could read the words written on our tires, weekend accidents and driving-under-the-influence incidents off post might miraculously subside.

If we placed a radar camera every 20 feet along every road and street, we wouldn’t need MPs everywhere writing bushels of tickets. Maybe we should put devices in our vehicles that automatically e-mail our commander and print a bill every time our car illegally shifts out of first gear. We could use the proceeds to buy more radar cameras.

Common sense should prevail. Posted speed limits in my area are ridiculously low. If a clown off post is going to drink, drive and speed on a Saturday night without wearing a seat belt, no amount of crawl-speed driving on post would have saved him.

Fifty kilometers an hour (30 mph) is a safe speed for city driving. Just because a street has an Army and Air Force Exchange Service sign near it, the speed limit shouldn’t restrict normal travel.

Maybe these ground-guide speed limits are an AAFES plot. Or perhaps, the true reason this type of policy exists is because developing a better safety plan requires too much effort.

So, as with many reactive quick fixes, we shall continue to use the “restrict all to prevent the few” solution.

Wayne Bruton
Grafenwöhr, Germany

Male or female, who cares?

In reference to the coed/gender wars, we complain to much. I feel that we spend too much time complaining and not enough time soldiering.

I was an infantryman and have been deployed five times, twice in Iraq. Now I am with the Signal Corps in Balad. I’ve seen war from both sides of the line and all I see is complaining.

And as I read these letters I noticed that none of you is infantry. I have seen women do their jobs, where men haven’t, and vice versa. If you can’t do your job, I will be there to make sure you can figure it out. I won’t do it for you, male or female; that’s not my job. You will get the job done and that’s just it, nothing more.

This Army is getting smarter and so are our mouths. If you are not in a leadership position or your comments do not help the mission at hand, then keep your mouth shut. This is war! People die. While we are complaining, people are fighting. While we sham on our job, people are dying. As soon as we figure that out, the sooner we go home.

Who cares whether you are male or female? I don’t, and I am infantry. If she can pick up that rucksack and shoot that weapon, let her do it. If he can sit in that chair and use that pen let him do that. Because when the convoy gets attacked or the compound gets attacked, and I get wounded and cannot shoot any more, I would hope that anyone of you, male or female, will take my place and continue the fight.

Donald DeLoach
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

NCO corps has changed

I enlisted back into the Army after being out for 10 years. With more than 13 years of service I see the Army’s noncommissioned officer corps has changed. I noticed that motivating soldiers isn’t the top priority anymore.

When I was a young soldier, if you had that “can-do” attitude, you got rewarded. A coin from the command sergeant major, a certificate of appreciation, or an Army Achievement Medal motivated the soldier to continue to have that attitude and maybe re-enlist. Motivated soldiers are more likely to stay in the Army.

The recruiters are having a tough time getting potentially good soldiers to enlist. I think we as NCOs could help by keeping good soldiers in the Army and getting them to re-enlist.

Sgt. Daymeion G. Brantley
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

Pacific edition

Unity among services is key

I was able to read the letters for and against the Commander, Naval Forces Japan uniform policy.

While both gentlemen had valid points on the issue at hand, I was drawn to the underlying banter between the retired Air Force master sergeant (“Navy dress code is intrusive,” July 3) and the retired U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant commander who stated he also served in the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (“Navy dress code revisited,” July 13).

My brother and I were born and raised Navy brats but ventured to the other branches, joining the Army and Air Force, respectively. Because of my direct links, I’ve always made myself aware of these service rivalries and respective of all the services.

This hasn’t been more evident than in my current assignment at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, which hosts U.S. Pacific Command’s Armed Services Blood Bank Center. I am fortunate to work in a most unique situation where the best of the Navy, Army and Air Force combine their talents to manufacture and distribute what I call the military’s one truly joint asset — blood.

While the Army may have its tanks, the Navy its submarines, the Air Force its jets, and the Coast Guard its ships as unique assets, regardless of our uniforms we all require this most precious life-saving commodity. We make no distinction to who is on the receiving end of our product.

We at the ASBBC have been practicing “jointness” long before it was a trendy buzzword. We obviously had growing pains in the beginning but have set those rivalries and differences aside and transformed into one cohesive unit. I am proud to be part of this first-rate team that is so mission-focused that it has blurred service lines.

While our uniforms, customs and traditions differ, much like society the fact holds true that diversity is an asset. We all share the inherent call to duty that transcends our different uniforms. It’s our common thread. It must be in our blood.

Air Force Capt. Jerome L. Vinluan
Camp Lester, Okinawa

AAFES should allow for taxes

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has made a very weak attempt at correcting a serious wrong. While it is true AAFES has lowered its retail price at the gas pump by 25 cents per gallon, it is just more of the same lip service we have come to expect from the company store.

AAFES sets its prices using a sample of average stateside pricing. What officials fail to do is factor out state and local taxes from the equation. On average, state and local taxes represent 40 cents on every retail gallon. Since AAFES is not subject to state and local taxes overseas, why do officials consider this an opportunity to generate additional revenue instead of passing the savings on to customers at the time of purchase?

Granted, Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs ultimately benefit from the money AAFES returns to the Army and Air Force, but is it fair for soldiers and airmen living overseas to subsidize MWR programs at a greater rate than those living stateside where AAFES’ profit margin on a gallon of gas is much slimmer because state and local taxes must be included in its retail price?

When a private company overcharges its customers, it is called price gouging. What is it called when the government does it to its own employees?

T.M. Edgar
Yokota Air Base, Japan

‘Rotten eggs’ scramble system

Concerning the nighttime curfew at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa: There are “rotten eggs” in every society, so why should the U.S. Air Force be excluded?

The personnel on Kadena are being unjustly punished for the misdeeds of a few “rotten eggs.” The average serviceman/servicewoman is entitled to let off steam sometimes, but this curfew makes it impossible.

I am a non-American without any kind of business interests in the area around Kadena. I live, in fact, far away from that area.

I sometimes feel that the whole of Japan has gone from worse to worst. But is there any talk of a nighttime curfew for the entire Japanese population? Of course not!

Bo Soderberg

Women lessen odds in combat

Obvious physical differences aside, there are some significant psychological factors to consider in the argument over women in combat military occupational specialties.

The basis of modern combat training focuses on desensitization. When males work and live alongside females, they are forced, even required by regulations, to foster the very sensitivity that their training has worked to diminish. This creates a paradox that reduces combat effectiveness and undermines unit cohesion.

Just because coed noncombat units function effectively has little bearing on how a coed combat unit would perform under fire. One need only research the studies conducted following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, studies that concluded that coed combat units suffered significantly higher casualty rates than non-integrated combat units. These studies reported that the male soldiers in the coed units focused on protecting and aiding the females in their unit rather than attacking. This, along with their enemy’s extreme reluctance to surrender to females, led to a combat environment of primal ferocity.

Martin Van Crevald, an Israeli military historian stated recently: “To me, the very fact that this issue is being discussed … simply shows that you do not take the military seriously.” As history clearly demonstrates, the presence of women in combat units seriously affected that unit’s ability to perform its mission. Further, the average female’s disproportionate strength puts a female at a great disadvantage against the average male, weighing close combat heavily in favor of the enemy.

These factors must be weighed against the personal preferences of a small, but very vocal, minority before any serious consideration can be made concerning females being allowed into combat MOSs.

Sgt. Dylan Watson
Forward Operating Base Cobra, Iraq

Where’s positive war news?

I am 14 years old and am a dependent. I believe Fox News did a fantastic job covering the starting days of the war in Iraq.

But what about now? They tell us how the death toll of American troops rises every day and about the Iraqi civilians who are dying, but what about the positive aspects? Our media should speak about a new school being opened, how education is provided to individuals who were considered second-class, and how fresh water and electricity are being given to people who have never received it before. With all of the negative aspects they provide on a regular basis, no wonder the people of the United States don’t support the war.

Many Americans believe it was a mistake going to the Middle East and liberating the Iraqis. I don’t. If we would not have gone to the Middle East, more attacks like Sept. 11, 2001, would have occurred. I’m not saying they couldn’t happen again, but at least we have taken the war to them.

I know our American soldiers on the front lines believe in America, and our freedom depends on their bravery. The very least we can do is support them.

I occasionally visit wounded troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The soldiers are surprised that my brother, age 8, and I wear “Support our Troops” bracelets. They believe America doesn’t support them to their fullest ability and that’s wrong.

Our brave soldiers have liberated Iraq and the Iraqis are beginning to govern themselves, but this is only a small step. They need our help. I commend President Bush for what he has asked our troops to do.

Justin Weihe
Ramstein, Germany

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