August 24

Parents' view hurts country

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 24 Parents’ view hurts country Times, and tours, have changedAugust 25 Mail not just late, but swapped Bayonets can’t be removedAugust 26 Feeling like a drafteeAugust 27 War is not summer camp Act like the best Should be water under bridge Article omitted contributions No leave amid death in familyAugust 28 Women in military make news Active duty should take over Lack of resources pitiful Living conditions unequal Aware adversity is a challengeAugust 29 Hope still moving military MPs keep convoys safe Promotions by the bookAugust 30 Army still behind curve Guardsmen slighted by Stripes

I am really appalled at the way people are acting back in the States about this war on terror — and servicemen and women doing the job they signed up to do. Did they think they were in the Cub Scouts or something?

I am retired from the military. I spent 20 years in the Army and do not regret one day of it. I went to Vietnam, where I was with 101st Airborne Division. My family and I were in Panama during the treaty talks and vote in the late 1970s. I was involved in the Jonestown thing in South America and worked with the U.S. embassies in El Salvador and Honduras when they had a border conflict going on. I went through the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua and then got sent back to El Salvador — where Marines were killed. I was shot at many times and shot back many times and I know what wars are all about.

The sad and unchanging part all through history is that young people have to fight these wars and people will die — as they have all through history.

Much of my military career was spent doing this sort of work; doing what I signed up to do, serving my country at the best of my ability. All the men I served with at these assignments did their jobs too, and not one had his parents band together to try and stop the government from asking all of us to do what we signed our names on a piece of paper saying we would do. We signed up to defend our country and our country faces one of the biggest threats ever at this time.

Does anyone understand that since 911 our country has been at war? What happened that day was an act of war and for us to think that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it is being very very naive. What is going on now — with all these groups getting together and trying stop our troops from doing what needs to be done to bring this thing to an end — is just what our enemies want. They have learned to use our own news media against us and the news media is falling right into place.

If these parents did not want their kids involved in this kind of conflict, they should have stopped them from coming into the military. Now is not the time for disunity. If the parents really wanted to help their kids out, support them and our country. Doing what they are doing now is playing right into the enemy’s hands and helping them kill more and more of our young soldiers. Can’t the parents see that — or have they even thought about that? I’m sure they haven’t.

If the United States pulls out of this war now and runs home, we are done for. No nation in the world will ever have any respect for us and if people thought 911 was bad, there is more that would happen to our country; it would make 911 look like child’s play. Our enemies want to destroy our country and our way of life and I pray to God that our president keeps doing what he has been doing so far; once Iraq is finished, we should take down the next terrorist country that is willing to attack us and support others that would attack us.

I have three sons. One spent five years in the Coast Guard, got out and was in school during 911. He told me several times after 911 that he wished he was still in.

Well, he is getting his wish. He is going back into the Coast Guard soon and I support him fully; another son who is a policeman in Texas and has three sons, also has been talking about going into the military. I support him, too.

They know that if this is not stopped now by brave soldiers and brave parents, it will go on and on and get worse each time. How many civilians have to get killed back home before our country comes to its senses and realizes that these terrorists and terrorist countries are our hard-core enemies. They have said: “Death to America” and they mean just that. Our death is what they seek and they are willing to do what ever it takes.

The question is, are we willing to do what ever it takes to stop them or are we as parents going to render aid to the enemy at home and help the cause of the terrorist? Not this parent. I love my great country.

William T. NewbyMannheim, Germany

Times, and tours, have changed

The writer of the Aug. 8 letter “Mission always comes first” mentioned the varying lengths of tours of duty during the Vietnam War, World War II and Korean War. But that was then. Times have changed.

Soldiers have every right in the world to be upset about dates being changed for their homecoming. Soldiers also have the right to express how they feel.

Alicia HartsfieldHanau, Germany

August 25

Mail not just late, but swapped

This is another letter about the mail here in Iraq, but with a sad twist.

Complaints about the mail being slow are valid. I just received a package that is four months slow. Mail delivery has improved, but if a unit moves often then its soldiers have to be patient. The mail has to find them.

My complaint is not with mail delivery but with the people who handle it. I believe that the majority of mail handlers are honest professionals. It’s that 10 percent I’m concerned with.

My mail was delivered without its original contents. Instead of the items that were supposed to be in it there was a letter from another soldier to his wife. For some reason my items were removed and someone else’s letter was inserted. I can do without the items sent to me, but some soldier’s wife has not received her letter, and that’s wrong.

From looking over the letter I know that the soldier is with an Army signal unit here in Iraq. His wife’s name is Sara Moreno. I won’t recover my items, but I’d like to return the letter to the soldier or send it on to his wife. I’d appreciate any help or suggestions.

Spc. LeRon ParkerAr Ramadi, Iraq

Bayonets can't be removed

Rick Scavetta’s May 22 article “Marines cautioned on taking souvenirs” implied that U.S. servicemembers could retain or shipmail out of the U.S Central Command area of responsibility nonissue bayonets (Iraqi bayonets). This is not correct. Whether sheathed or not, bayonets may not be mailed from the CENTCOM AOR.

Under General Order 1A, servicemembers are prohibited from retaining nonissue weapons for personal use or shipping them out. CENTCOM considers bayonets to be weapons, so if they haven’t been issued they are prohibited.

Moreover, the Coalition Forces Land Component Command, the command responsible for postal and customs services for Operation Iraqi Freedom forces in Iraq and Kuwait, also prohibits the personal retention or shippingmailing of nonissue bayonets.

As a judge advocate general who works with this issue daily, I can tell readers that the article has caused much confusion among troops who now think that the bayonet policy has changed. It has not. Nonissue bayonets have always been prohibited.

Capt. James E. Pietrangelo IIKuwait

August 26

Feeling like a draftee

I’m a Chinese linguist in the National Guard who has been deployed in Iraq for the last six months. My End Time of Service date was Feb. 24, 2002 — more than 18 months ago — and I didn’t extend my enlistment. Members of my unit still don’t know when we’ll be going home. So under the current stop-loss rules governing Reserve Component units, I’ll have to continue to serve for the entire time that my unit is deployed. My ETS date was two days after the stop loss began. Originally it was indefinite, but it was later modified to last only 12 months.

I knew what kind of commitment I made when I joined the National Guard seven and a half years ago, and I’ve taken that commitment seriously. I was also very aware of the kinds of sacrifices made by many servicemembers in every branch, so I was also willing to make sacrifices. With this in mind, I continued to serve in the Guard, waiting until I could honorably complete my obligation and ETS from it. My wife and I changed our plans to move to another state so I could fulfill this obligation.

But after this additional year of service was almost up and I was three weeks away from my prolonged ETS date of Feb. 24, 2003, my unit was activated and I was told that a new stop-loss policy had come out making all Reserve soldiers deploy with their units for the entire time that their units are activated.

Because soldiers in every branch have had to shoulder such a heavy burden over the past few years, I was willing to share some of it. But currently the stop-loss policy has been lifted from active-duty sevicemembers (except for two military occupational specialties), and only the Reserve Component’s stop loss remains. This means that an Arabic linguist in the regular Army having the same MOS as I do could leave tomorrow if that was his or her ETS date. But I, as a Chinese linguist serving in the Middle East, still cannot, even after serving an additional 18 months of a six-year contract and having more than two and a half years of active-duty time.

This is not right or equitable. The commitment that reservists make is just as binding and demanding as that of the regular Army. We get less money for college, fewer benefits and usually a longer contract. Yet we have to juggle our military obligations with the high-stress demands of the civilian work force. We don’t have the safety net of the regular Army. Therefore, it’s unreasonable to demand from us greater sacrifices than what is expected of full-time soldiers.

I have the utmost respect for my fellow regular Army soldiers. But it’s time to fully acknowledge the role that the Reserve and Guard play and begin to address the issues affecting us. Now that the Army is no longer subject to stop loss, reservists shouldn’t be either.

I’m beginning to feel like a draftee. My patriotism is slowly being eclipsed by the overriding feeling that I’m being abused by my government. What’s the point of even having a contract if it’s so open-ended and changeable that the government can do whatever it wants with us and doesn’t have to uphold its end of it?

I don’t know if this letter will do anything to effect policy change, but I just wanted my voice to be heard so that others are aware of the situation.

Sgt. Timothy A. GriswoldIraq

August 27

War is not summer camp

I’m a soldier with B Company, 724th Engineer Battalion. I joined the National Guard in November. I graduated Basic and Advanced Individual Training on March 13. I was deployed on March 15 with no warning. We got to Kuwait in May. We made our way north around a month later. It’s now August and we won’t be leaving until February.

In every edition of Stars and Stripes I’ve seen since I joined, there’s been a letter of complaint. Well, I’d like to tell all the writers to stop complaining about everything. We’re at war, not summer camp. Servicemembers signed on the line and raised their hands for whatever reason. No one wants to be here. When they complain, they should think about all the people who fought before us. Do the complainers think those people had DSN lines, air conditioning and a constant supply of mail?

It’s really sad to read so many higher-ranking members whining about whatever. They should think of all those who gave their lives in so many wars before this one. So, in the words of another soldier before me, suck it up and drive on!

Pfc. Joseph MurphyIraq

Act like the best

I’m writing in regard to all the soldiers complaining that they aren’t able to go home when they thought they would. The last time I checked, this was a volunteer Army, unlike it was in some of our past wars. For instance, in World War II soldiers didn’t leave the theater until the war was over. In the Vietnam War, soldiers had to stay in country for one-year tours, not by choice but because they were drafted.

The complainers sound like members of a Boy Scout troop at summer camp for a week who miss their mommies and daddies. If someone twisted these soldiers’ arms to sign on the line, then they might have a reason to whine. But now they have to earn their college money and they don’t like it. This goes to show that American society has gotten used to handouts. This is not a welfare line. These soldiers need to buck up and do what American taxpayers are paying us to do — whether they like it or not.

It’s understandable that these soldiers miss their families. I have a family that I haven’t lived with for almost two years. But this doesn’t give soldiers the right to talk to the media and express their opinions on our leadership. They are giving the enemy one more tool to help their cause. If the enemy sees that our soldiers are against the mission or even thinks they might be against it, the enemy knows the American people will follow. Then we just might leave Iraq to them. And then the soldiers who have already given their lives and the ones who will unfortunately give theirs as we carry out this mission will have done so in vain.

I’m not ready to do that. We run around beating our chests and talking about how tough the U.S. military is, and when it’s time to put up or shut up we act like a bunch of spoiled kids. These soldiers need to stop crying and drive on. We are the best, so let’s act like it.

Sgt. John F. ObenraderMosul, Iraq

Should be water under bridge

I don’t know what’s harder: weaning my 2-year-old son off his baby bottle or weaning an Army soldier off his water bottle. My son cried for a little while, but he learned to adapt after a few days. Privates first class — and plenty of their leaders — have had a more difficult time. “Where’s my water bottle?” “I only get two water bottles a day.” “People are fainting from dehydration.” “Waaah.”

When first preparing for water distribution in the Baghdad International Airport area, our support operations section initially planned to be self-sufficient by June 1. By then, the theater would no longer issue bottled water because reverse osmosis water purification units, water buffalos and other water-distribution assets would be in place.

But some higher-ups, knowing that soldiers liked bottled water and trying to make them more comfortable, decided to continue distributing bottled water. This has been at no small expense and has been a massive logistical nightmare. But hey, anything for the Joes, right? But once again, something intended to be a morale booster has fed the ever-present, overdeveloped sense of entitlement that defines the character of many of today’s soldiers.

We won World War II, and if readers can believe it, we did it without a single plastic bottle of water. If my assumption is correct, we even had GIs survive in the jungles of Korea and Vietnam, and they made it without bottled water.

Nowadays if soldiers don’t have bottled water, they’re going to die of dehydration. Heaven forbid a soldier dig through ye ol’ rucksack and find the one-quart canteen, or even better, the improved two-quart canteen, and fill it and refill it with water from a water buffalo or a five-gallon jug. In fact, plastic water bottles are refillable, too. Then a soldier can drink to his heart’s content. If it takes someone with more rank than a private first class to come up with that idea, we’re in trouble.

I have no problem providing support to all of my customer units. And if I could, I’d flood them with a deluge of bottled water. I will also never take away a soldier’s final right — the right to complain. I could simply say what I occasionally have to tell my 2-year-old son, which is, “Buck up!” But a dumb complaint with a more-than-easy solution deserves a response. So those complaining about bottled water should find their canteens. I promise they’ll survive.

1st Lt. Nathan E. HenryLog Base Seitz, Iraq

Article omitted contributions

This is in response to the nice July 19 article “Mending Iraq with tools, not weapons.” It was about the bridge built in Zubadiyah during the last two weeks of June.

I’m a member of the 1437th Engineer Company, a multirole bridge company from the Michigan National Guard. Our guard unit was activated in January in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After being sent to Kuwait in March, our bridge company was attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The point of this letter is to report a misrepresentation in the article. Our bridge company was tasked with using our MK2 assault boats to aid in the construction of the bridge and its pontoons. We aided many of the Seabees with the construction of the bridge sections. Our boats and skilled engineers were not credited for the work we did.

With all due respect to the 133rd Battalion of Seabees, our little MRBC from Michigan did just as much work as the Seabees with zero recognition. We realize that we were simply tasked with this job versus volunteering. But how are we supposed to show our grandkids this article and tell them we were there? Many of us aren’t even going to cut out the article, and we all worked very diligently toward the bridge’s completion.

Spc. Nicholas HuyckCamp Tarawa, Kuwait

No leave amid death in family

I’m a U.S. soldier in Iraq serving my country. I received a Red Cross message that said my great-grandmother, who raised me all of my life, passed away. My higher headquarters did not send the message all the way down the chain. My company had to go out on its own to retrieve my message. After three days my leave form was sent in, and the day before my great-grandmother’s funeral I was denied leave. I was not given a reason. Why? This woman was the biggest factor in my life. She encouraged me to join the Army.

We defend our country every day, and we should have the opportunity to go home and take care of our families and loved ones when they need us. We’ve earned that right at least.

Spc. Alanda DavisIraq

August 28

Women in military make news

I’d like to send out a special thanks to all the women serving in the military. Today’s military is growing greatly in its number of females. We have earned our respect and are treated as equals among our male servicemembers. However, it seems that most media give their attention to the men’s wives and families, or to women only in tragic cases.

I’d especially like to thank some of my fellow female GIs in the First Platoon of the 1168th Transportation Company from Iowa for their dedication and hard work.

• Sgt. Sara Cox, an elementary school teacher, has left daughters Kasandra, 5, and Grace, 3, in the care of her parents.

• Sgt. Krista Lewis has left daughter Ashlyn, 3, in the care of her ex-husband and family.• Sgt. Melanie Ford celebrated her first wedding anniversary on Aug. 4.• Spc. Laura Rooker is deployed to our unit along with her husband. Their daughter, Kinsee, celebrated her second birthday on Aug. 13. Kinsee has been left in the care of Rooker’s parents.• Spc. Jennifer Lester celebrated her 21st birthday in Kuwait in June. She is engaged to Sgt. James Miller, who is also in our unit. They will have to wait until their return to the United States to exchange their wedding vows.• Spc. Brandy Spivey had just missed the third birthday of her son, Lane, when we were activated.• Pfc. Jayme Wendt returned from basic training and Advanced Individual Training just in time to deploy with our unit. She had less than a week to say hello, goodbye and celebrate her birthday.

I’d also like to thank my own husband, Justin, my parents, family and friends for their support.

I think the families of women serving our country have a unique challenge and deserve recognition. We’re all mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and aunts. Our numbers are growing, and so should our share of media stories.

Staff Sgt. Monica O’NeillKuwait

Active duty should take over

I’m writing in response to active-duty members who say we’re whining about being deployed to Iraq or this is what we volunteered for.

I served as an active-duty Marine from 1988 to 1992, including eight months in Operation Desert Storm. After being out of the military for eight years, I decided to join the National Guard. I wanted a part-time job, to serve my country and to learn another job skill. I planned on possibly helping with floods, storms or riots in our nation.

We were called up on Feb. 7 and sat at a base until May 25, when we finally went to Iraq. We’re currently in northern Iraq performing cleanup and rebuilding.

Active-duty personnel need to understand that guardsmen and reservists have full-time jobs or are in school. They’re also involved in organizations such as the Cub Scouts, etc. Like some active-duty servicemembers, we’re also married with children. We also own homes.

I gave up active duty after spending two and a half years of my four-year enlistment deployed away from my wife. We’ve only been in Iraq for a little more than two months, but we’ve been away from our lives for six months. We have no idea when we’ll go home. We didn’t volunteer for this. We live with no Internet, few phones and a slow mail system. These are our only connections to home.

I think it’s time that active-duty servicemembers — the people who did sign up for this — take over. Guardsmen and reservists have done their part and done it well. Send us home. Don’t get me wrong. I was active duty, and those servicemembers do a great job. But remember that it’s their only job.

Spc. Chad GarciaIraq

Lack of resources pitiful

I’m with B Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment. We’re currently attached to Task Force 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment out of Baumholder, Germany. We’ve been in Iraq for about two and a half months. We’ve seen our share of headaches, from moving every other week to actually not getting drinkable water. This is frustrating for all of us, especially when we’re conducting real-world missions. At one point water was so scarce that my platoon had to buy water on the economy out of our own pockets from Iraqi civilians. Yes, privates and sergeants had to put in some of their own money in order to have water. It was the same with ice, which we are also supposed to receive from TF 26 Infantry.

The moving situation is a morale destroyer. We never know if we’re going to stay in the run-down building we live in with no air conditioners, no windows and no running water. To make it even worse, we have a nuclear power plant about 50 miles from our location. This brings me to my final call for help. We U.S. Army members, soldiers, parents, sons and brothers are being exposed, and nothing is being done about it. There are no official records being kept on the amount of radiation or possible side effects.

This letter is meant to inform members of Congress and other influential people in the United States that their armed forces are not being fully taken care of. They’ll wonder why soldiers are demoralized and ask themselves and leadership what’s really going on. The Army has given me a lot. But now I think it’s setting us up for failure. Without some of these resources we won’t be able to accomplish our mission.

Staff Sgt. Johny JimenezIraq

Living conditions unequal

I’m assigned to the 442nd Quartermaster Company of Bellefont, Pa. Our current assignment is Baqubah, Iraq. I don’t understand why our living conditions are so poor. At Camp Anaconda, which is about 35 minutes away, there’s everything a soldier needs, from a huge post exchange to air-conditioned sleeping areas and Morale, Welfare and Recreation tents.

Our PX building in Baqubah is about 40 feet long by 20 feet wide. Its shelves are usually empty. There’s usually a limit on darn near everything. My fellow soldiers and I purchased a window air conditioner due to the runaround we kept receiving from the 204th Forward Support Battalion to whom we’re attached.

Why is there such a difference in living conditions from one camp to the next? We’re all in Iraq. Each one of us could lose our lives as easily as the next. All that I’m saying is that the living conditions should be the same.

Spc. Tyrone GrossBaqubah, Iraq

Aware adversity is a challenge

I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to all the members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Whether at home in support of our troops and mission or abroad fighting evil, their dedication to our country, as well as their commitment to creating a better future for those they bravely fight to free, does not go unnoticed. No matter what the opinion polls say or what the rumor factory has produced, they are supported and their service is needed. Thanks again. They are all my heroes.

I’d also like to ask everyone to have a little more patience with one another. I sense so much anger directed at each other in this forum. I know that those who are downrange want desperately to come home. Believe me, their loved ones on the other end want the same. But this is the military. In all actuality, this is what they signed up to do, whether they believe in the cause or not. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. There’s a reason we’re involved, and they may not realize the magnitude of their contributions until much later. But they are great.

So the next time servicemembers feel their situation is unimaginable, they should just remember that it could be worse. Let’s all be grateful for what we do have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. Adversity is simply a challenge to make us stronger.

Sandi BennettGiebelstadt, Germany

August 29

Hope still moving military

The U.S. military and America have lost a dear friend in Bob Hope. I guess I’ve been around long enough to remember Mr. Hope doing his Christmas shows for the troops in Vietnam when I was a kid and being in the first Gulf War when he gave his show. I also remember him coming to Germany and Korea.

I guess when Mr. Hope did his first show for the troops he didn’t realize what they would think. He didn’t know if they would give him the cold shoulder because he was a celebrity and didn’t get dust and dirt in his morning coffee. But soldiers have been true throughout the ages about one thing for certain: Whoever stands in front of them better mean it from the heart, or they simply shouldn’t waste their time.

Over the many years, it was never too cold, rainy, windy or hot for Mr. Hope to visit the troops. They broke the mold after him.

We unloaded the cargo ships in Kuwait this year. I heard some soldiers talking about the new ships we had. They said that they can get the cargo from Point A to Point B faster than before. They’re the new Bob Hope class of ships. Thanks for the memories, Bob.

Sgt. Kent J. HopkinsTaji Air Base, Iraq

MPs keep convoys safe

There is a common, yet not-so-favorable belief that military police are merely “Army cops.” But the mission of the military police corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom extends far beyond simply guarding gates and handling enemy prisoners of war. Military police units in Iraq play a critical role in assisting combat and support forces traveling to the front lines, protecting main supply routes from terrorist and criminal attacks, and defending both coalition forces and noncombatant civilians from harm’s way. Gen. John Abizaid, the deputy commander (forward) for Combined Forces Command, has declared that the main enemy threat uses guerrilla tactics. The Military Police Corps, in its everyday missions, does its part to deter, neutralize and destroy this significant and unconventional threat.

The 300th Military Police Company contributes to the fight against guerrilla terrorism in several ways. By maintaining a constant and ever-vigilant presence along the main supply routes, the patrols of the 300th Military Police Company have deterred this insurgent threat to the extent that nearly 5,000 military convoys have driven along this main highway without incident. The dominant presence that these patrols have had along this main route has deterred enemy activity. But deterrence alone is not enough.

To ensure the safety of this main highway after the 300th Military Police Company heads home, these meticulous MPs have made bold efforts to neutralize the enemy threat. The 300th patrols search high and low to confiscate illegal weapons in their area on a daily basis. If all the illegal weapons in the area are removed, the threat will deteriorate.

One squad in the 300th has been particularly successful with weapons confiscation. The success of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon cannot be attributed to mere luck. According to the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Biehl, the soldiers are creative, aggressive and know when to follow their instincts as military police. This aggression and creativity has lead to more than 200 weapons systems discovered and 62 weapons confiscated by the squad in less than two months without incident.

The methods of finding these weapons include searching suspicious buildings, looking for weapons caches in likely off-road areas, and setting up mobile vehicle checkpoints that stop and search vehicles along the main roads. One team leader, Sgt. Casey Schwab, describes the event that lead to the 1st Squad confiscating four AK-47 rifles from a single vehicle: “We saw this car stop before it came up to [our mobile checkpoint] and then it approached. There was one empty magazine and one full magazine in the vehicle, so I walked about 10 meters back and found four AKs. Well, would you look at that!”

The 300th Military Police Company continues to diligently patrol its small piece of Iraq in order to keep coalition forces and United Nations personnel safe from harm and also to neutralize the threat of guerrilla attacks in their area. This single company of MPs may not be able to win the war against terrorism on its own, but its members certainly do their part.

2nd Lt. Patricia KastIraq

Promotions by the book

I’m currently deployed with the 988th Military Police Company in Najaf, Iraq. I have some questions about the Army’s promotion system for enlisted soldiers.

I joined the Army as an infantryman and spent my first four years in a deployable unit in which we did just that — deploy. No sooner would we return from a deployment than we’d find ourselves back in the field training or preparing for another deployment. I’ve since reclassed and have found my way into another deployable unit. And once again, I’m deployed.

I recently attended the E-5 Promotion Board, but I didn’t make the cutoff score needed to be promoted. This is where my questions begin. While I’ve spent a majority of my time in the field or on deployment receiving the training and experience needed to become a leader, my nondeployable peers have sat in the rear — going to military schools and getting the civilian educations they need to get promoted. Does the Army really want to base its leadership on points from schools and colleges?

I’m deployed in a real-world situation. I’m working with many team leaders who’ve spent most of their time in garrison or came into the Army after time in college. These same people have had the time to do both correspondence and take college courses if they didn’t already have them. Because of their time for schools and college, they’ve made cutoff and have been promoted. Many of them have less time in service and grade than I do. What they don’t have is the field time, training or experience needed to do the jobs that we’re doing here in Iraq. What they do have is points and, because of this, those of us who do have field time and experience find ourselves being moved around a lot to strengthen teams and team leaders who lack this knowledge.

I haven’t had the opportunity to enroll in or complete any civilian education and have had to ask for multiple extensions on Army correspondence due to deployments and field time. But I’ve been through two rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center, the National Training Center and Yuma Proving Grounds. I’ve also deployed to Japan for Operation Orient Shield. None of these deployments were less than a month long. Are these deployments not worth any points? Are correspondence and college courses more important than experience?

How can this be fair? Is it not an issue when I have to answer the questions that someone else is getting paid and trusted to answer? I’m also supposed to trust the judgment and decisions that they make, many of which can ultimately be life-threatening. Are the answers to these life-threatening decisions found in textbooks and online correspondence or in the field with time and experience? What are points in relation to time and experience? Three hundred possible promotion points come from a combination of correspondence and college out of a maximum of 800 points. That’s a lot of points that won’t really help in a real-world deployment or with troop-leading procedures, for that matter. Can someone please explain the logic behind this?

Spc. Jamie WynnNajaf, Iraq

August 30

Army still behind curve

I have to agree with the July 4 letter “Petty Army rules lower morale.” The Army sends a message of the need for smart, bright students to join a newer, more-intelligent, more-high-tech military. Recruiters, on the other hand, will do anything to fill positions for unpopular and undermanned military occupational specialties. This leads to naive soldiers, many with excellent grades and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores, being placed in a grunt-work environment without the ability to use their intelligence. This leads to their disenchantment with the military, a change of service to the Air Force or an early expiration of term of service.

I joined thinking that the stereotype of simple-minded and ignorant soldiers was an outdated and demeaning cliché. But the Army still sets itself in traditional, maladaptive patterns. Work tasks rely on “pick up and put over there” methods rather than using ingenuity or basic mechanisms such as levers or the wheel.

As an artilleryman, technology is visibly outdated and slow to change. While the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim still applies, so does Moore’s Law. There is always room for a more-efficient, more-compact piece of technology, especially in a unit that relies on accuracy. But the Army as a whole is slow to keep up with the curve, something its commercials suggest otherwise.

While I believe in standard Army procedures, there are countless ways to streamline work, paperwork, leadership, communications, intelligence, field data and quality of life for soldiers using newer technologies to save time, work and hassles.

When people assume the Army is equivalent to the Air Force on land, it’s sad when instead they find themselves in the movie “Renaissance Man.”

Pfc. Tim TurnerIraq

Guardsmen slighted by Stripes

“National Guard moves on Baghdad.” This is the headline that many of us in the Guard eagerly anticipated seeing in Stars and Stripes. Like so many other servicemembers, we look forward to reading military news around the world as reported by the “military’s paper.” It’s been our only source of news since Camp Virginia’s morale tent was toppled by heavy winds in early April. But we’re constantly disappointed by the lack of coverage that we receive, not only from Stripes but also from all other forms of media.

For instance, the June 10 article “Not wasting time in Medical City” didn’t include us at all. The story was about a first sergeant in the 1st Armored Division who’s attempting to rid Medical City in Baghdad of its biohazard. He told a story about seeing a cat carrying a human hand. Our unit was relieved by the 1st AD, and during the changeover guardsmen told the story of seeing a cat performing this trick earlier that month. This is either the same cat and it has a hand fetish or there are multiple cats snagging hands from the hospital grounds. The article was written four days after we were relieved by 1st AD.

An earlier article was about the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment finally making night patrols in the area around Medical City. This was considered relevant journalism because of the dangerous implications of night patrols in Baghdad. If that was newsworthy, then it should have been newsworthy to hear that we guardsmen had been patrolling the area day and night since we relieved the 101st Airborne Division on May 3.

As a Guard unit we’ve received very little credit for the work we’ve done. It’s disrespectful that we men who’ve sweat and bled haven’t been given the simple courtesy of being recognized. The recent USO show at Baghdad International Airport was a prime example. At each show the 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division, Marines and Air Force were recognized. We were slighted. Why didn’t the performers and hosts thank us? Perhaps it’s because they, like us, read Stars and Stripes.

Marvin RydbergIraq

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