August 17

In the Army, not the Boy Scouts

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 17 In the Army, not Boy Scouts A poor choice of words Reality check needed Questions go unanswered It’s all about numbers Awards all around for effortAugust 18 AT&T made right calls in Iraq Time will prove mission is justAugust 19 Mr. McNamara had his turn Military spouses are special Arab nations need to step up It’s a life, not a jobAugust 20 Different standards abound Enough of McNamara Send Iraqi army to Africa Mail arrives in bad shape An incomplete uniform look Long stays make skills sufferAugust 21 Reality calls for more troops Reservists give, leaders take What’s causing the drought? Find a new profession Don’t use rights as a crutch DOD should put AFN in IraqAugust 22 Integration will be rushed Reservists deserve respect Taking care of each other Complaining the American way Families want it both ways … … but are right to speak outAugust 23 Allegations can’t be ignored Kadena pool policy all wet

I constantly read complaints about not getting mail, not getting good food, poor living conditions, and not knowing when we are leaving.

I believe we all raised our hands and chose to join the Army. All the leaders who were telling us to stay motivated and be hard-chargers wrote the letters that were the most negative.

I’ve missed my birthday, my wedding anniversary, my son’s birthday and my wife’s birthday. But I continue to motivate my troops and soldiers. If all the leaders would put as much time into motivating and encouraging their soldiers as they do into writing negative letters, maybe their soldiers would be happy.

My troops have been notified that they will stay in Iraq possibly until April. That will be a year. So leaders should make what they can of the situation and make things happen at their camps to be better. We’re in the Army, not the Boy Scouts.

Sgt. Danny HillCamp Marlboro, Iraq

A poor choice of words

This letter is in response to the July 24 article “The consequence of comments.” I sympathize with the soldiers who are in Iraq and had strong words to say about their deployment, how long they’ll be staying and when they’ll be going home. But the people who had strong words about members of the U.S. government made a very poor choice.

The sergeant who said on ABC News that “I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted’ list” and “The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz” desperately needs to be re-educated in tact, professionalism and, most of all, leadership. As leaders, we have hard choices to make. The four leaders in the sergeant’s deck made tough decisions they thought were necessary to protect our country. Yes, their actions required thousands of troops to be deployed to Iraq and away from their families for long periods of time.

I’m married and have two kids at Fort Hood, Texas. But I joined the Army knowing that I could one day be called to go into combat and if need be put my life on the line. As an NCO, I have a duty to ensure that my soldiers and I complete our mission for the greater good of the unit, the Army and the country.

Those four “aces” felt it was their duty to ensure that Saddam Hussein abide by U.N. Resolution 1441. Those aces went well out of their way to try to resolve the situation diplomatically. And the sergeant had the gall to criticize them? What decisions would he have made? Remember Sept. 11, 2001? Has the sergeant forgotten?

Staff Sgt. Shawn McFaddenTikrit, Iraq

Reality check needed

Before coming to Iraq, I’d never read Stars and Stripes. Now we get a copy whenever the mail gets through. I’ve been absolutely appalled to read letter after letter from soldiers whining and complaining as if it’s not fair that their country has called upon them to do the jobs they volunteered to do.

In the Aug. 3 letter “Mail means more than letters,” the writer referred to a soldier who merely raised his hand for college money and instead has an M-16 and has been sent to war. When he raised his right hand to enlist, what was the soldier thinking? That he’d receive “free” money with no effort or sacrifice on his part? Did the soldier think that he was a special individual who was in his own “Army of One” whose sole purpose was to serve himself?

I also read an article about one soldier asking for the resignation of U.S. government officials and another soldier having his own “wanted list.” Other soldiers have also cried about Meals, Ready to Eat, how hot the weather is, how little sleep they’ve had, and the amount of time they’ve been in country. These soldiers need a reality check. They need to do some homework on what their units have endured in previous wars: extreme heat and cold, heroism by almost every man, and no mail at all. At times whatever food they could find was all they ate.

The hardships in those wars were far greater than any we have in Iraq. We won’t find soldiers from World War II writing war-protest letters. They were honored to serve their country and very proud to do so.

All the negative press is taking away from the true patriots and warriors who would go into combat again and again if their country called. The Marines in my unit spit out their pacifiers when they were 3 years old, as have other servicemembers who proudly serve their country when called. If these soldiers want to whine and cry about how unfair it is to them, they should do us all a big favor and quit. They are of no use to anyone. I salute all those who serve proudly and do so with honor, courage and commitment.

Sgt. Frederick SweeneyDiwaniyah, Iraq

Questions go unanswered

I had no problem with being deployed to Iraq. Of course I was disappointed that I’d be leaving my family and friends. But I’m proud to represent the United States and defend the Constitution. I have nothing to complain about. I get food and water. Everything else is icing on the cake. But I do have two questions that nobody seems to be capable of answering. First, when exactly are we going home? Six months? One year? I don’t think it’s that hard to decide. Every day I hear a different rumor, and rumors harm morale worse than any mortar round or rocket-propelled grenade ever could.

Recently my platoon sergeant reminded us to stay vigilant and remember why we’re here. We all looked at each other and laughed. That leads to my second question: Why are we still here? Our return home should be near the end of the planning stages, because our missions are either completed or near completion. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. In many places we’ve helped establish a new Iraqi government. We were also supposed to find weapons of mass destruction. But we haven’t found any or any substantial evidence that they exist. We were also supposed to root out any terrorist activities. Terrorist cells remain. But rooting them out shouldn’t take four divisions, two armored cavalry regiments, a few individual brigades, various National Guard and Army Reserve units, and Special Forces units.

If anything, having so many troops in Iraq has spurred more terrorists to come here because there’s a greater number of targets. This part of the mission can be done far better by small, easily maneuverable units like those in Afghanistan. I don’t see even one division in Afghanistan, only parts of one. The rest of that division returned home, only to be turned around shortly thereafter and sent to Iraq. Now they’re stuck here with the rest of us for unspecified politicians trying to save their reputations. I don’t believe soldiers’ lives are worth anybody’s vanity.

If the current trend continues, more soldiers will have lost their lives during the “peacekeeping” operations than in actual combat. The answers we seek are heavily shrouded in secrecy. The last time I re-enlisted, my contract said it was for the regular Army, not the Secret Service.

Sgt. Daniel A. DeilerSamarrah, Iraq

It's all about numbers

I want to know exactly how important numbers are in this deployment situation. I am a National Guard soldier who is only a year and a half into military service. Could somebody please tell me what is supposed to be most important in our profession?

I am part of a signal unit, so once we get set up there really isn’t much work to do until it’s time to break down and go home. In the meantime, we’ve had several soldiers who have gone home on emergency leave or been sent to the States for medical reasons. What I don’t understand is why some of them have been brought back.

One soldier had a heart attack, and was brought back to Iraq. Another, a good friend of mine, was sent home because of a herniated disc in his back. He spent a month at home and underwent surgery. It took six doctors to get him home for this operation, but the opinion of only one got him back overseas. He is again in Baghdad, complete with a profile that disables him from carrying his weapon or even wearing a frag vest or load-bearing vest. Why is he even in a combat environment when he isn’t needed? Numbers. And to think I joined a military where I thought the soldier came first.

Spc. T.J. RumlerCamp Franklin, Iraq

Awards all around for effort

This is in regard to the article “Guardsmen earn combat badge,” which appeared in the July 31 Korea and Okinawa editions. I’d like to congratulate soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 293rd Regiment of the Indiana National Guard for being awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for their duty at Tallil air base in Iraq.

I’m a member of the 822nd Military Police Company. The 822nd MP CO and a platoon from the 223rd Military Police Company were temporarily assigned to support the 1/293rd Regiment at Tallil air base. The 822nd MP CO assisted with perimeter security and provided personnel at checkpoints leading to the airfield. The platoon from 223rd MP CO provided personnel for checkpoints on the main road leading to Tallil, Route 8.

The 822nd MP CO performed the above duties from March 29 until April 4. I don’t know if there were other units assigned to support the 1/293rd Regiment to secure Tallil air base after mechanized units moved forward.

Only infantrymen qualify for the Combat Infantry Badge. I’m wondering if units that were attached to the battalion in question are eligible for any other award.

1st Lt. P. Campos-CruzCamp Bucca, Iraq

August 18

AT&T made right calls in Iraq

On behalf of the AT&T Military organization, I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to the claims expressed by Sgt. 1st Class Gerald L. Caddell Jr. in his Aug. 12 letter “High AT&T rates uncalled-for.” First, let me say that AT&T is proud of its record of serving America’s armed forces. We’re constantly working at ways to improve communications between the troops and their loved ones back home, something we have done in every war since 1914. So far, we have built approximately 29 calling centers since the end of 2002 in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan — making available close to 650 phones for our troops to utilize. We also have dispensed 619 mobile satellite phones in Iraq for troops unable to use the calling centers.

Sgt. Caddell is confused regarding the cost per minute of calls from Iraq on both satellite phones and calls placed from a call center. Calls from the call centers are as low as $0.375 per minute while calls from the mobile sat phones are $0.90 per minute when using the Army and Air Force Exchange Service 200-unit prepaid card. Satellite phone rates are higher since they require connectivity to multiple satellite signals while the call center requires a dedicated satellite signal. AT&T provided the satellite phones as a mobile solution in order to provide service.

The decision to determine an area’s needs (call center versus satellite phones) was based on both the size of the force and its movement. The pricing for calls varies by country depending on both available infrastructure and bandwidth. Satellite phones were distributed among 22 military units located within Iraq and call centers were placed in Tikrit, Mosul, Babylon, Tallil and Al Asad as determined by V Corps and CFLCC.

AT&T is happy to report that the fifth call center in Tikrit, complete with 48 phones, went online on July 26.

Chuck RussoAT&T military market customer care managerMorristown, N.J.

Time will prove mission is just

Stars and Stripes, keep up the great work. Even on your worst day you’ll never be as bad as CNN (Constantly Negative News) is on a regular basis. Troops in Iraq, take heart! Time will prove us right. In the meantime, take cover. Blow away anything that looks the least bit out of place. Wish I could be there with you. Perhaps my chance will come soon.

Master Sgt. Bill FarrarRamstein Air Base, Germany

August 19

Mr. McNamara had his turn

On Aug. 6 Stars and Stripes ran a column (“Rules of engagement must include support for court”) by none other than Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Mr. McNamara’s legacy is carved in stone — literally. The Vietnam Wall in Washington lists the names of the 58,000 or so Americans he sent to die.

Mr. McNamara would later admit in his book “In Retrospect” that he realized early in the conflict there was no way to win and that more and more Americans would be sacrificed for nothing. This isn’t the case. We could have and would have won if it weren’t for incompetent, arrogant, ignorant fools such as Mr. McNamara running the show.

In his column, Mr. McNamara urges the United States to join the International Criminal Court. He begins with a parable of Gen. Curtis LeMay of World War II, whose position he states as, “If you’re going to fight, you should fight to win” and “If you’re going to use military force, then you use overwhelming military force.” With this he disagrees. Big surprise to those Americans who fought in Vietnam.

Mr. McNamara implores that “the violence and cruelty” of war be eliminated, but he doesn’t suggest how to do this. He then says, “We need a clear code, internationally accepted, so that not only our Congress and president know, but so that all our military and civilian personnel know … what is legal in conflict and what is illegal.” Has anybody bothered to tell him about the Geneva Conventions? In fact, the only people who don’t follow it are those who find themselves on the business end of the U.S. Army.

Sending Americans to their deaths wasn’t enough for Mr. McNamara. Now he wants to send them to jail.

What troubles me most is not that he is writing this drivel, but rather that Star and Stripes is printing it. I understand the concept of free speech, but sometimes common sense has to prevail. Newspapers employ editorial censorship daily. It’s not a bad thing as long as it’s used properly and fairly; needless to say, I strongly believe that Mr. McNamara’s piece ought not to have made the morning cut.

Pfc. Stephen BozichKaiserslautern, Germany

Military spouses are special

In these days of trials and tribulations, the negatives seem to always outweigh the positives and float to the top. But I’d like to direct readers’ attention to some positives about the greatest asset in the military arsenal: military spouses.

Since early May I’ve been deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Armored Division, 1st Brigade, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment. My wife is a Family Readiness Group leader and a manager of a base thrift store in Germany. When I left, she took over full responsibility of our household as well as the care of our two children, just as numerous spouses do when we leave. When the men leave, we leave many vacancies in and around our home bases for our spouses to fill. For instance, the women of our casern now coach my son’s baseball team. They keep statistics and scores and still provide snacks and refreshments as always at the end of the games.

Between work and her many Family Readiness Group duties, my wife is our family accountant, seamstress, mechanic, mentor and even a shoulder for me to lean on when she could probably use one herself. She’s the cream of the crop as wives go. Maybe that’s why she was voted Army Spouse of the Year when I was on drill sergeant duty a few years ago. If asked why she does it or why she puts others before herself, my wife will say it’s because she loves them. That’s what military spouses do and that’s why they’re so special.

About a month ago my father was diagnosed with cancer. He didn’t want to tell me because I was deployed. He said I had enough to worry about. So my wife packed up the kids and took a space-available travel flight to see my parents and make their lives more enjoyable. She also helped take care of my grandmother. I didn’t ask my wife to do this. She just did it because she loves us. No thought ever crossed her mind about her needs or what she’d like to do. It was just the fact that someone needed help and that she could provide it.

Now my wife will soon pack up and head back to Germany. The kids need to get ready for school. She probably thinks the house needs dusting, and she knows there are battles to be fought on the home front. Another crisis diverted and evildoers thwarted at the hands of my ever-capable and faithful companion, my military wife.

So here’s to all the military spouses everywhere for a job well done and a hearty hooah!

2nd Lt. Darren R. TetersBaghdad, Iraq

Arab nations need to step up

I see Stars and Stripes infrequently here, but I don’t recall any coverage on this subject. (I won’t mention the heat; lack of air conditioning or cold water; broken promises of redeployment; or speculation on site improvements).

Here I sit in a country in a region that most Americans knew very little about before the involvement of American soldiers. Occasionally, some of the Iraqis (or other regional Arabs) ask why it is taking so long for the United States to get things going here. I think I finally have a decent answer.

The United States can solve the entire issue by offending the Arab world and making this part of the United States; but that would surely alienate the culture in this area. I truly believe that if the international community could ever get to the point of agreement, it could also correct the problems. But who would pay for this new Iraqi government?

Here is my thought: This area is home to some of the largest mineral resource wealth in the world. Why not let the neighbors of this beleaguered nation help in rebuilding this part of the world? The basic question is, “Where is the Arab League? What about OPEC?” I know they would be deeply interested in their future and the possible consequences of a runaway oil production in the 51st state of Iraq.

Master Sgt. Stefan SteudtelTikrit, Iraq

It's a life, not a job

I enjoy reading Stripes, and since my husband deployed I read it every day. I also enjoy the letters, but just had to write and say my hat is off to the writer of the Aug. 16 letter “Neither right time nor place.”

I do not hear from my husband via phone or e-mail because he’s a soldier in Iraq. I hear from him by mail and, yes, sometimes it takes a while but we both receive our mail eventually. As I said, he’s in Iraq!

Even though conveniences would be nice, we didn’t expect them. We expected a yearlong deployment. It’s not fun, but being a soldier isn’t supposed to be fun. And I married a soldier, which means life for my family isn’t always fun either.

My family is proud of our soldier and all the soldiers who watch his back daily. For some, it’s not a job. It’s a life.

Kaye ReedBaumholder, Germany

August 20

Different standards abound

I am currently deployed to Iraq and have seen most of the country. In my travels, I see different uniforms for the same service — the Army. Some units wear T-shirts with [Interceptor Body Armor], some without a Kevlar on, some without IBAs on, some with boots bloused, some with boots not bloused, some in full uniform. These are all from the same Ivy Division.

When you go to Tikrit, the uniform commonly seen is [Physical Training gear], even though Tikrit is known for its mortar attacks. You go to Balad, also known for its mortar attacks, and you see soldiers wearing soft caps and some boots bloused and some not. Then you travel to East Samarra Airfield and you see soldiers in full uniform, with boots bloused, with Kevlars and a weapon at all times, except during PT hours.

My entire unit walks around with no clue of what is going on, because we get “no information from higher,” as we are told. Yet, other units have division command sergeant majors brief them often on their happenings and future endeavors.

Also, while I was at Balad, two X-ray technicians from [Corps Support Command] (attached to the Ivy Division) were talking about the 15 days of leave they had taken when their children were born. Our soldiers don’t have that opportunity, even with a Red Cross message of complications during birth. And when asked why, the answer we are given is, “Because it was briefed before we deployed.” What is the Army’s regulation on leave while not in combat, but in a hostile environment? I could understand not allowing leave if we were doing something proactive.

As an E-5, I can make corrections for what I see wrong when I know the standard, such as if I were at Fort Hood, Texas. So, what is the standard? Or, more important, is there a standard here?

As a soldier, I feel there should be one standard across the entire rank structure, from general to private. And, of course, the mission should dictate the standard.

We are all here together, for one reason, doing the same general mission. So why is everyone’s standard different?

Sgt. Kevin D. BarwellEast Samarra Airfield, Iraq

Enough of McNamara

How dare Stripes editors print in a GI newspaper those “nice feeling” words of the man primarily responsible for the deaths in Vietnam of 58,000 American servicemen, and for the 2,000 missing, and 150,000 wounded (“Rules of engagement must include support for court,” column, Aug. 6). So now former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara says our “rules of engagement” must include supporting the World Court, stupidity that our president has rejected out of hand. It’s enough to make a man vomit when you place him in Guam in 1945, with Gen. Curtis LeMay, a true warrior responsible for bringing Japan to its knees after four hard years following Pearl Harbor.

We dropped “the bomb” to save more than 1 million American lives and an estimated 3 million Japanese defending Kyushu and Honshu islands. So if we lost, LeMay would’ve been tried as a war criminal for firebombing Tokyo?

As for Vietnam, President Johnson and McNamara tried to run a war they knew little about and had no training to do. What they did to Gen. William Westmoreland, those who preceded him and those who followed was criminal. We withdrew from Vietnam as a result of Washington’s surrendering the edge to the enemy. I heard my president, in 1965, speaking over the 15 radio stations of American Forces Radio, say: “We’re not out to defeat the enemy, we’re out to punish him.” How do you think that sat in the minds and hearts of the thousands of us over there when that same enemy was bound and determined to kill to obtain its objective?

We had enough of McNamara and Johnson in Vietnam. Both should’ve been charged with treason.

Maj. John Canty (Ret.)Rota, Spain

Send Iraqi army to Africa

Let’s play connect-the-dots: Iraq had a huge army. Let us recruit and train them for peacekeeping in Africa. Seems like it could work.

Michael CokerMosul, Iraq

Mail arrives in bad shape

I am writing a follow-up regarding the mail system in Iraq. I have been deployed to the desert since early March and never have I seen such a messed-up mail system. A few of the packages I have received have been open when they reach me, due in part to the aggressive handling by the mail handlers in Kuwait or wherever the mail enters the theater. I have seen soldiers in my unit spend money to buy MWR-type items for themselves, only to find that when it reaches them it doesn’t even work properly. The mail handlers are doing a good job on getting the mail to the soldiers fast, but they need to work on mail care.

Pfc. Thomas G. O’Connor IIIIraq

An incomplete uniform look

I’m all for our Air Force brethren having a distinctive uniform (“Air Force unveils proposed blue pattern for new BDUs,” article, Aug. 9), but I certainly hope they find a different cover style than the traditional eight-point Marine Corps cover pattern (“cover” means hat, for you Air Force guys).

USMC Master Sgt. W.L. WellmanCommando Camp, Kuwai

Long stays make skills suffer

I don’t want to bad-mouth anybody, but the problem lies with higher leadership. When soldiers complain, it shows that we are a smarter Army in some ways. It seemed that soldiers who could think on their feet were better, but yet they get punished. We know the war in Iraq ended quickly, but why are the soldiers who won it punished? The military should have had a rotation set up before the war because they knew it would end sometime. Soldiers who won and fought the war should have been replaced.

I am in Kuwait on Arifjan. We have it good here. I truly believe that soldiers in Iraq have things bad. I also realize others in some camps in Kuwait have things bad, too. I never felt I deserved anything more than them. The problem here is that we are all pretty much suffering from some of the same conditions. Soldiers can only physically and mentally last for so long. While those in Iraq suffer heat and fatigue with full gear, those in Kuwait suffer, too. Those in Iraq duck danger every day, which should be reason enough to rotate out. How much of a gamble does it take to put their lives in danger for so long until they are too tired to be effective?

After war, they can’t last more than a month up there. They could have been back in the States, recuperating perhaps to come back here for another tour.

Then you have troops in Kuwait. Soldiers in intense heat standing guard or convoy escorts still get worn down, maybe not as bad as in Iraq but surely enough to be ineffective in three months.

These are harsh conditions and most soldiers don’t have air conditioning. Missions, exercise, movies and swimming pools don’t magically take away stress. They help. The biggest thing that helps soldiers is home, and we should have rotated them back there by now.

Sgt. Doug NowickiCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

August 21

Reality calls for more troops

I am writing in response to numerous columns and articles stating that we have enough soldiers and there is no need to increase end strength. This is the case only because of the continuous reliance on the reserves. By having 60,000 Reserve soldiers activated on a continuous basis for rotational deployments, the actual size of the Army is 540,000, not 480,000. To have an indefinite rotation requiring 100 reservists may give you a new Reserve soldier every six months, but the fact is you need 100 more full-time soldiers.

I am a reservist in Iraq, activated in January, and I have no problem pulling my year tour alongside my active counterparts. When my country called, I showed up. However, the fuzzy governmental accounting that says there is no need for additional soldiers — when common sense says otherwise — was burning out the reserves before the war even started. If there is a continuous, increasing reliance on reservists, you really need more people.

We have even been told that there aren’t enough military police to replace the ones currently deployed. In a civilian company when there are not enough employees for the next shift, red flags go up. In the Army you bury your head in the sand and say nothing’s wrong.

Afghanistan, Kosovo, Liberia, Iraq and Bosnia aren’t going away tomorrow.

People need to start seeing through the rhetoric, and see what the reality is. We need more people.

Spc. Michael KosinskiTallil air base, Iraq

Reservists give, leaders take

I am here in Iraq for the second time. I served in Desert Storm on active duty with the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., and now am here as a member of the Florida National Guard. There are different opinions about who should be here. I understand our obligation to serve our country. So, as reservists, we answered the call.

When I was on active duty, I was guilty of looking down on reservists, too. Once again, we have proven the active duty wrong. We only work at our jobs for one weekend a month, but we take our jobs very seriously. We make up a great percentage of the total armed forces. My hat’s off to the military, because together we make it happen. We let the world know why we are the greatest force around.

Improvements have been made, such as Internet and satellite phones, but we still need such improvements as fair treatment for all soldiers, whether active duty or Reserve. We are not always treated equally. For example, if we have a pay problem, active-duty finance cannot help us.

The reservists have stepped up to the plate and now it is time to return home. Many of us are losing money, and it can’t be OK to say, “Well, your family will be all right.” We just want a time frame of when we will leave.

I am a career soldier and going to war is not going to change that. We love our jobs — both of them. We the citizen soldiers just want to go home, and we will be ready for the next time.

CW2 Anthony ThompsonIraq

What's causing the drought

I love reading the letters to the editor that talk about the slow mail service in Iraq. We have all experienced it, but it is still fun to hear.

I find the letters defending the mail system even more entertaining. For instance, in the July 10 issue a soldier defended the mail by saying how hard they work, how they work seven days a week, 12 hours a day and pray for a day off (“Quit complaining about mail,” letters).

I have no sympathy. Soldiers in my company work at least 12 hours a day sitting in a guard tower or patrolling the nearby area. We haven’t had a day off in almost two months. Everybody has a sad story.

As to the mail, for a while there was none. Then one day the mail caught up and it was great. Now, mail is questionable again. My family writes every day, and yet I haven’t gotten a letter in more than a week. My company hasn’t moved, and our address hasn’t changed. So why the holdup? Why do we go through times of catch-up with lots of mail every day, then a drought with no mail?

I guess all I can do is head out to my guard tower and hope that tomorrow ends the most recent mail drought. Today is July 19. Let’s see how fast the mail system is.

Spc. Eli EschenbauchIraq

Find a new profession

I am really disappointed in the outcry by my fellow soldiers deployed in Iraq. Maybe they need to be reminded that we get paid to come fight for our country when we have to.

I’m a 4th Infantry Division soldier and we found out that we were going to be deployed out here for a year. Sure, that stinks. No one wants to be in this hellhole for that long. But suck it up and drive on.

If this deployment is too rough for you or your family, I suggest you find a new profession after your current enlistment.

We’re American soldiers. Start acting like it.

Pfc. Raja PrabhalaNorthern Iraq

Don't use rights as a crutch

Some servicemembers in Iraq believe it’s all right to criticize Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because the Constitution gives them the right of free speech. It always amazes me how people who want to do something that’s overall harmful justify their actions by quoting the Constitution.

Consider this: Does freedom of religion mean one can sacrifice virgins if that is their religious belief on the way to appease the gods? Does the right to bear arms mean one can carry his own shoulder-held missile launcher? Does the freedom of speech mean one can yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, thus causing panic, injury or possibly death by stampede?

The answer to all these is obviously no. Common sense and reasonableness must come into play.

So it is with criticizing military leaders. Criticizing the defense secretary is overall harmful because it affects the morale of the troops and it gives encouragement to the enemy, causing our mission to be extended, rather than curtailed. If we want our troops to come home, we need to get behind our leaders, give our full support to get the job done, and then go home. Quoting free speech to justify criticizing leaders during military actions is not at all helpful.

Tom DriverCamp Monteith, Kosovo

DOD should put AFN in Iraq

I have been stationed in Iraq for several months and would like to know why we don’t have American Forces Network in the Middle East.

AFN’s purpose has been to boost morale by bringing a welcome voice from home, carrying news and current events, as well entertainment and sports. It also serves to carry military information to troops and Department of Defense civilians over a wide area in the event of an emergency.

I think there are more than 200,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Kuwait. Our British allies have far fewer numbers here, but they have been listening to British Forces Broadcast System since before the onset of hostilities.

I would think there are enough soldiers here to justify the significant costs of setting up a radio station operation. These are the best troops in the world, and they deserve it.

1st Sgt. Bruce SandsCamp Bucca, Iraq

August 22

Integration will be rushed

The tragic slayings of spouses at Fort Bragg, N.C., got me thinking about the Army’s new program to help redeploying soldiers adjust to home life. I am currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Armored Division. Those of us who will be PCSing from here are given only 30 days before our scheduled return to the States to go back to Germany to empty houses (because our spouses have hopefully shipped all of our household goods by then).

In this time, our vehicles must be cleaned and shipped; we must clean and clear government housing; we must clean and turn in TA-50s that have been through countless numbers of sandstorms. That’s a lot of cleaning and clearing.

So at what point will I receive my series of physical and mental tests and attend question-and-answer sessions on family reunions and suicide prevention, among other topics? During this time, soldiers are to report for duty for half-days. This process goes on for several weeks and is designed to integrate them gradually into home life. All in all, that is a pretty busy 30 days.

I feel confident that my family and I will be able to adjust, as this is my third deployment with 1st AD, but for younger soldiers who have never deployed before this seems like an awful lot of things to get accomplished in 30 days. It sounds as if soldiers are going to be rushed and pushed out the door to their next duty station instead of being “gradually integrated.”

Under normal conditions, a PCS in any family’s life is a stressful event. Add to that the return of a soldier who has been in a combat zone and it can become a recipe for disaster. The answer I’ve been given, when I asked my chain of command about this, is that you can “voluntarily” extend for 90 days upon your return to Germany. In my situation, if I were to do this, by the time I get to my next duty station I would have only two months on post before my re-enlistment window opens. Two months on post isn’t enough time to get into housing and have my furniture delivered. I re-enlisted for this assignment more than a year ago. I guess I wasted that re-enlistment.

Now when soldiers ask me what I think about their re-enlisting, I really don’t know how to answer their question. But all of this goes back to the 1st AD’s generous 30 days of “gradual integration.”

Staff Sgt. William WatschingerCamp Dogwood, Iraq

Reservists deserve respect

Army reservists are treated separate but equal. They tell us we volunteered just like active duty; however, once reservists are activated we have the following inequalities:

• See a slow start to war-zone payments and tax-free benefits, supposedly because of a different pay system.• Not allowed to retire or ETS on time or the same amount of time as active duty.• Not allowed to have allotments taken out of our paycheck.• Cannot participate in the savings plan through automatic deductions. We have to write a personal check each pay period.• Not compensated with extra money after ETSing if extended past that date.• Also, personnel action memos discussing ETS or retirement mostly have a clause at the bottom stating that either reservists aren’t included or it does not apply.

These are just a few of the problems from higher-ups. I’ve had people ignore me once I’ve told them I’m Reserve. I am proud to be an Army reservist. I’ve served my country for 10 years, and I deserve respect.

Sgt. Teena HorneCamp Webster, Iraq

Taking care of each other

In this day and age when the Army’s slogan is “An Army of One,” I have to beg to differ. It’s catchy, but not true. I have been in the Army many years and the best slogan is “Be All That You Can Be,” the teamwork concept. We all work together.

For example, while leading a convoy of heavy-equipment transports south of Baghdad International Airport, my driver and I were hit by two improvised explosive devices that crippled the truck, the trailer and us. My unit sought refuge from a Bradley tank. When all was safe, I sent the remainder of the convoy south to finish the mission. The military police were the first on the scene, providing security and assessing damage. Then they escorted us to their compound at Camp Graceland for refuge and to do battle damage assessment.

We were next moved to the compound of the 407th FSB, 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd BDE, where they took us in and made us at feel at home, feeding us at their chow hall, giving us water, making anything we needed available and accessible. They outright took us in as one of their own while we waited for our unit to pick us up.

Special thanks go to 1st Lt. Mixon and to Sgt. Robertson of operations for helping us out in our time of need and to all 82nd personnel involved. We are in this war together and examples of this camaraderie are few and far between. But however long we stay in Iraq, we need to stick together and take care of one another.

Staff Sgt. Ronald J. GallegosCamp Victory, Kuwait

Complaining the American way

I tried to keep my mouth shut about all the complaining from soldiers in the Iraq region, but enough is enough. Am I for or against all of the complaints? You bet I’m for the complaints. Why? Because it’s what we Americans do best: We complain. It’s like some unalienable right that we have as Americans — right up there with baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.

If any person in the States started getting his or her mail 30 to 40 days late, I’ll bet he or she would complain. Every complaint made by our soldiers is legitimate. All of these so-called old-timers and gung-ho patriots need to chill out, because if no one complains then how do we fix things that are broken?

Stephen P. MaloneKaiserslautern, Germany

Families want it both ways ...

I do understand that all families want their servicemen/women home safely. But the servicemembers knew what they were getting into when they signed up. This isn’t a picnic and you can’t whine and cry when things don’t go as planned.

No American wants anyone to lose a family member or any more of our sons and daughters to be injured or worse. So in short, they should suck it up and deal with it! These parents should have realized that they wouldn’t always be there to wipe their noses or kiss the boo-boos. At some point people have to stand up and be counted for their actions and while it appears the servicemembers get this, the families don’t. Someone can’t support our troops and cry fraud at his or her commander in chief at the same time. Obviously some need a lesson in commitment, honor and courage.

Brenda NewkirkWoodstock, Ga.

... but are right to speak out

I have been opposed to this war since the start. I am glad other people are waking up. I am also a veteran and I think that families of current servicemembers and veterans have a responsibility to speak out for servicemembers.

Bill EndresClinton, Ohio

August 23

Allegations can't be ignored

This letter is in response to the Aug. 16 article reporting that a memorial service was held at Yokota Air Base, Japan, for Chief Master Sgt. Winfred B. Harrison (“Yokota holds memorial for NCO”).

During the service, two officers describe the chief as “a dedicated airman,” “a warrior” and an NCO whose loss would be “felt across the Air Force and around the world.” An Aug. 9 article (“NCO’s request to avoid trial had been denied”) indicated the chief was to be arraigned on charges of being absent without leave, obstructing justice, and two counts each of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts.

What am I missing in the reporting? When was the chief exonerated of the charges? I realize an individual is innocent until proven guilty, but when a general court-martial convening authority returns a request for retirement in lieu of court-martial and instead decides to go to court, then there must be substantial evidence to support the allegations. I was shocked to read the eulogy comments that were reportedly made by these two officers. How a commander can stand in front of an assembly and make comments that describe the chief in a positive manner when he abused and mistreated others in the command is unfathomable.

It is disgusting that somehow the concept of taking care of the family of a deceased airman perverted these leaders’ sense of morality. Commanders are expected to hold the moral compass for the unit. How could these officers memorialize (and describe as an asset to the Air Force) an E-9 who allegedly used his power and position to satisfy his sexual desires and mistreat those who didn’t conform? These officers — and all those who sat in the audience that day thinking that they were doing the right thing — have lost their way. They should leave the Air Force before they can do more harm, and they certainly should not be entrusted with America’s most precious assets, the men and women proudly serving in the best air force in the world.

Douglas K. GelbachOkinawa

Kadena pool policy all wet

We’ve been living on Okinawa for five years. I love it here; I love the people, food, beaches, festivals, museums and historical sites.

But I’d like to thank some of the people on Kadena Air Base for giving me yet another reason to hate this place: My kids lost their pool the other day.

This has got to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I’ve put up with nonsense from the higher echelon of Kadena for five years now, and I’ve just about had my fill of stupidity and arbitrary decisions.

My husband and his friends have been getting treated like garbage at his squadron for more than three years, but they’ve been dealing with it and very heroically, I must say. I can deal with that: We only have nine months to go.

My grandfather died while my husband was TDY, and I was told by the Red Cross and Air Force Aid that they couldn’t help me get home because he was “only” my grandfather. I can deal with that: We only have nine months to go.

I heard the members of Linkin Park, one of my favorite bands, offered to come here and play a concert for half their usual fee, but the command section of 18th Services turned them down because they don’t want to spend that much of the budget on one band. And yet, who do they bring? Air Supply. And Warrant — twice. I can deal with that: We only have nine months to go.

But the decision to ban all pools on Kadena was it. I just cannot take any more of this. This decision has been on the books at the housing office since 1999, but they only just decided to enforce it. We have been told that it was because a little girl almost drowned — last summer. That was more than a year ago, and now they decide to ban all pools? Why? Because the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is making a killing on these pools, and the on-base pools are suffering?

The on-base pools are terrible, anyway. There’s only one that has a baby pool, and it’s too far away from the big pool for me to watch my little boy and my older girls. Kadena’s pools, from what I’ve been told, are the only ones that charge you to get in, too.

I just don’t think it’s fair for all of us to be punished for the mistake of one parent. There was really no one at fault in that incident, and for the base officials to just decide to finally enforce a rule is unfair to all of us. But then, that’s not really surprising to me anymore.

But, again, we only have nine more months to go. And I’m counting the days.

Michelle PelayoKadena Air Base, Okinawa

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