September 14

Gay issue

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 14 Gay issue Lazy thinking Different standards Right to gripeSeptember 15 Travel-card woes easily solved CIB not meant for just anyone Lynch not heroic No respect for Army medicsSeptember 16 Who are the best? Care packages Keep up the fire What they signed up for ‘The Waaaah Page’September 17 Always a numbers game Native Americans in military Stripes gives troops a voice Complaints dishonor the fallen Criticism out of lineSeptember 18 Mission tough but beneficial Civilians living large in Iraq No boasting on letters page Promotion system unfairSeptember 19 I remember, so I serve Don’t use GIs as pawns Make best of deployment Earned right to complainSeptember 20 AAFES does great job Experience means something

Here we go again with the whole gay issue. Gay marriage. Should they adopt? And oh, we can’t forget about that pesky pedophilia, can we?

Why is it that every time there’s any issue surrounding gays, there’s an automatic attachment of pedophilia to it? As far as religion goes, it’s not gays who are the problem. It’s the Roman Catholic Church that has covered up and moved priests to prevent them from being caught.

Pedophilia is a problem, not homosexuality. Gays should be able to adopt without fear of being labeled as pedophiles. Granted, maybe they should be watched, but no more than anybody else.

This issue is getting old, just like the archaic arguments. All these moralistic and ethical attacks on gays are the only shelter that religion can stand behind, rather than “Love thy neighbor” or “Judge not … .”

Paul DeckerMannheim, Germany

Lazy thinking

This is in response to the letter “No sympathy” (Sept. 4). What is it that warrants the label “complainer” that I see all the time? Having spent almost seven years on active duty and two years in the National Guard qualifies me to make the assertion that these two components are actually different. Imagine that! Different commitments, different resources and different capabilities. I know this is where the tiresome retort “But you volunteered!” comes in. I sure did. And I don’t mind being deployed here in the Balkans. But that doesn’t change the undeniable fact that in the Guard, people primarily sign up to be full-time civilians and part-time soldiers. So I do have a certain measure of sympathy for them.

Who makes up the Guard? We’re police officers, teachers, truck drivers, paramedics, warehouse managers, construction workers and college students. Through our own lives, we contribute to society. And in times of national crisis, we know that the National Guard is expected to help augment or supplement active components. But I take exception to the opinions of the letter writer and others like him who demonstrate ignorance when they can’t tell the difference between a legitimate concern and a complaint. If they’d listen to these “complaints,” they’d hear that these “whiners” are simply wondering what purpose they now have in the Middle East. After all, didn’t President Bush declare an end to combat operations and thereby reduce the number of troops there?

Never mind that we miss our families. I’m certain that it happens to everybody regardless of component and service. But leaders are failing those under their charge when they can’t instill a sense of purpose in those they lead, be it moral or objective. Could it be our civilian leadership has failed the letter writer in the Middle East? My only hope is that the letter writer and others like him never get to lead troops if the best they can do is dismiss everything as “complaints” and everyone as “whiners.” That’s lazy thinking, if it’s thinking at all.

Staff Sgt. Howie HuEagle Base-Connor, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Different standards

I’m in a Reserve unit that’s been in theater since April 15. We’re going to be in Iraq for who knows how long. I’m an Active Guard Reserve, and my expiration, term-of-service date was in July. I went to check when I can get out of the system and was told that since my orders have me deployed with a Reserve unit, I have to stay until the unit is demobilized and a period of 90 days following the unit’s demobilization.

What’s the point of having an “Army of one” when we still have different standards and regulations? Wherever I go I’m considered active duty, yet I fall under Reserve rules for the most part.

I know soldiers who are active duty, and they’ve been allowed to ETS from Iraq. So why can’t AGR and Reserve soldiers ETS from theater? I think the Army has a double standard. If soldiers are coming up on their ETS dates and they don’t want to re-enlist, then they should be allowed to get out.

What happened to this being a voluntary Army?

Staff Sgt. Hector MartinezBaghdad, Iraq

Right to gripe

I’ve been in Kuwait for several months and have had a good time reading the letters to the editor, both pro and con, about conditions here in Kuwait and in Iraq. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and here’s mine: Anyone who says that they love it here should have their heads examined. None of us should love it here when we have loved ones back home worried to death about our well-being. We should just do what it takes to get the job done and go home to our families and careers.

Second, all of the professional soldiers who get a kick out of making fun of the folks who happen to air their gripes should grow up. How would they like it if someone criticized them when they wept about something in their lives? The last time I looked, we were all on the same team, whether it be active duty, Guard or Reserve. Let’s start respecting everyone’s right to gripe and not be vicious about it.

Thomas F. Curran Jr.Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

September 15

Travel-card woes easily solved

I am stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Two of my soldiers and I have outstanding TDY vouchers since the first week of April and the second week of May.

If 8th Army really wants to cut down delinquencies, (“8th Army sees progress on travel card payments,” Sept. 7) maybe they should get someone in finance to do their job and process the vouchers in a timely manner. We have run this issue through our chain of command, the finance commander’s hot line and the Inspector General. We are still getting the runaround and still not paid. Are we supposed to pay this $1,000 out of pocket? At what point do we invite our congressmen out for lunch and a visit to the Finance office?

I would bet that 8th Army could cut their delinquencies in half just by making finance do its job in a timely manner.

Michael BryantCamp Humphreys, South Korea

CIB not meant for just anyone

Recently I’ve read several letters from soldiers with military occupational specialties other than infantry who aren’t eligible to receive the Combat Infantry Badge. The latest was “ ‘Part-timers plenty busy” (Sept. 6).

Soldiers of every MOS have been tested and proved themselves in battle throughout Iraq under extreme conditions. They should wear every award, badge and patch with pride. They’ve earned the respect of other soldiers. They should have the satisfaction of knowing that they have contributed to something great. But the CIB was created under very specific conditions for very specific reasons.

The CIB was created in 1943 to specifically honor the contributions of the infantry. In the history of the award, Army Regulation 600-8-22 says that “it was recognized that the infantry continuously operated under the worst of conditions and performed a mission which was not assigned to any other soldier or unit.” It further stated that the CIB was to recognize “the Army infantryman, the only soldier whose mission is to close with and destroy the enemy and to seize and hold terrain.”

Almost all soldiers in Iraq have operated in deplorable conditions, and some did “close with and destroy the enemy.” Nothing should be taken away from them. But even some soldiers from infantry units were ineligible to receive the CIB despite the fact that they performed every task that the rest of us did. They didn’t meet the criteria for the award.

Our battalion worked with many great GIs of countless MOSs. The major command that we served under was a military police brigade. We were watched over as we cleared the houses of villages and ran late-night patrols from the hand-dug holes we lived in for months.

We are appreciative of the fine soldiers who watched over us. They showed their warrior spirit when needed. Many soldiers worked and fought alongside infantry units all over Iraq and continue to do so.

Like all GIs, we in the infantry chose our MOSs. We draw the same pay according to our grade and ask for no additional incentives. We recognize and appreciate the skills of all the soldiers who join us on the battlefield. We all do our jobs and more.

No badge will ever exemplify the great things that Army members have done. But let soldiers wear their combat patch, Combat Medical Badge, crew badge, brassard or whatever badge they’ve earned with pride — and leave the CIB alone.

Douglas C. RappCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Lynch not heroic

I’d like to voice my opinion on “America’s hero” Jessica Lynch. It seems rather taboo for people to deny her heroism status. But I’ve never been one to go with the grain, so here goes. Why is Lynch so special? Thousands of men and women are in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan fighting for freedom and everything that America stands for. There are people shot and killed every day, and none of them have received the publicity and status of Lynch. And I’m sure that a lot of them don’t expect to be called heroes because they’re just doing their jobs.

The members of my unit have been in Kuwait and Iraq for a collective eight months, and none of them have been deemed heroes. They’ve been shot at and mobbed by crowds of Iraqis just like all the other soldiers over there. And the reason it’s nothing out of the ordinary is because we all raised our hands and swore to defend our nation from enemies foreign and domestic. Yet one woman who was taken prisoner because her unit made a wrong turn is a hero. She’s even said herself that she doesn’t remember the incident.

So what exactly is so heroic about her situation? I think that’s the biggest bunch of junk. She received a new car, an addition on her family’s home and much, much more. What about the rest of America’s heroes? Instead, the government debates whether or not to cut our pay.

I think the media needs to cool it with the Lynch hype.

Spc. Colleen DixonVilseck, Germany

No respect for Army medics

Kudos for the letter “Army still behind curve” (Aug. 30). The writer hit the nail squarely on the head concerning today’s Army medics. We’re the least-respected, least-thought-of military occupational specialty in today’s military. Medical personnel are last on the list for training, the Noncommissioned Officer Education System, equipment, repairs, and promotions. But they’re first for details, duty rosters and any other jobs felt not befitting the time and effort of the almighty combat GIs.

The decision to combine the medical specialist and licensed practical nurse into one MOS has been disastrous for LPNs. Fifty two weeks of intensive training, hands-on exercises and real-life working are lost to provide a larger manpower pool for combat arms units. MOSs such as LPN, physical therapy assistant and other advanced specialties were once avenues of advancement in the medical field. They required months of in-house training and months of schooling. The specialists were assigned to units in which they actually utilized the training, were encouraged to build upon it with further education and allowed the time to do so.

This is no longer the case. Now it’s just another avenue of getting medics to combat arms units. This would not be necessary if these units were not a death sentence to medics’ careers. Male Army combat medics will not get a Medical Department Activity assignment, even if they re-enlist. It’s not going to happen. But a combat division replacement is guaranteed. It’s not worth the disrespect or contempt we receive from combat arms personnel. The cliques or having to be on someone’s good side just to get a “fair opportunity” to advance one’s career is not worth it. Someone just not liking you and stopping your progression is just too much to ask of any soldier.

In the very near future, many medics will be “taking it to the house” simply because of the lack of respect that medics receive in this environment. It should not be that way, but it is, and it will only get worse in the months and years ahead.

Pierre F. ClineTikrit, Iraq

September 16

Who are the best?

Being the best. This seems to be a big issue with all U.S. forces in Iraq. Which unit suffered more? Which one will have the longest rotation? Which one will go home first? Which unit is the best? I’ll tell readers who’s the best. Better yet, I’ll tell them which soldier, Marine, sailor, airman, reservist, guardsman, and Department of Defense employee is best.

It’s the individual who came out and admitted he was a coward, but is still in Baghdad serving with honor. It’s the person whose job it is to re-enlist individuals. It’s the one who puts aside all feelings of self to explain how wise a choice it is to stay in the military when he himself has had it with the situation at hand. It’s the person who will never have the opportunity to be a young adult. It’s the person who doesn’t question any order and just responds “yes” to every command. It’s the person who has left so many loved ones behind in sacrificing for the betterment of others. It’s the person who puts aside all his physical pain to keep on going from one day to the next.

We’re forgetting one thing that makes us the best: we’re U.S. military forces in readiness. Do I really care which unit is the best? No, I don’t. What I do know is that these forces in readiness are the best people for this situation here in Iraq. I’m honored to have been serving with them during this time when our military forces may bring peace and freedom to others.

These are the ones who are the best: soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, reservists, guardsmen, and DOD employees. They are the ones who will go home first. They are the ones who will have the longest rotations, and the ones who have suffered most.

I’ve spent seven years in the Marines and now four in the Army. I’ve seen all these individuals at work. There isn’t a better trained military force in the world.

Now readers know who are the best.

Staff Sgt. Richard SchottBaghdad, Iraq

Care packages

I’m writing about all the care packages that soldiers get and what they should do with things like toothpaste, brushes and other stuff instead of throwing it all away. They should donate the items to the Iraqi people and schools and retirement homes back in the States.

I know of at least 80 care packages at Camp New York, Kuwait, and other camps containing things like puzzle books, soap and candy. They would help a lot of people, so I say we should donate these things. Soldiers giving things to the Iraqi people would help build trust all around. I know I’d donate extra things.

Sgt. Perry HughesCamp New York, Kuwait

Keep up the fire

The warriors on the front should keep up the fire! I thank them for continually reminding us that freedom is not free. Their patriotism and dedication has remained steadfast while a growing number of others, civilian and military, have forsaken these things with the return of their flavored coffee and pop culture trends. This call to arms hasn’t changed anything for some. For others, it’s been a life crisis.

A distinction must be made between soldiers and warriors. Warriors come in all shapes and sizes. They speak and carry themselves with a purpose at all times. In a black and white world, they would appear gray. Whether special or silent or just a grunt on a mission, there’s a difference between soldiers and warriors. There are far too many to list, I’m afraid. Warriors’ complaints are usually that of inefficiency and the lack of quality training.

Warriors’ values and moral code may differ from those of other soldiers as well. Duty is not looked at as service to country. Rather, it’s simply a way of life. The love of family is measured in quality, not quantity, to which their families are well-accustomed. Their passion lies with the job and/or mission success measured by battlefield results.

This passion can lead to trouble when weak leadership is confronted. Political correctness and ego stroking are on a constant collision course with warriors’ passion. Praise is not required. Warriors loath the combat patch and the bumper stickers which display service records. Creature comforts, post exchanges and the infamous bottled water are the furthest things from their minds. Warriors would rather get their own beans and bullets just to avoid the bureaucracy and attitudes from the service and support cast.

Pride in their work and their soldiers’ work often relieves the worries of the countless pay and record discrepancies that no one seems capable of resolving. Gratitude and appreciation from their soldiers often takes the place of the chevron or leaf they didn’t get, or the college classes they never got to finish. Warriors don’t post hours of operation plaques outside their doors, and they go through more battle dress uniforms than most do boot polish.

So again, the warriors on the front or in the rear should continue to remain true to their calling and pay no attention to the countless op-ed, feel good, whining media pieces discussing the despair of those who still don’t respect the rifle, or to those career-minded individuals who spent most of their careers avoiding deployments and praying they’d never be counted on.

I thank the warriors for being what they are.

Staff Sgt. David W. RichardsonVilseck, Germany

What they signed up for

I’ve been in the Army for a little more than six years now. I’m 24 years old. I’m part of the 16th Corps Support Group from Hanau, Germany. We’ve been in Iraq since February and are scheduled to leave sometime early next year.

It just kills me every time I hear someone say that they didn’t sign up to come here. They should go read their contracts again. In essence, we all signed up to come here. Any soldier faces the possibility of being deployed to a foreign country for wartime and peacekeeping missions.

My wife and I are in different units. She just got back from a five-month deployment to Israel shortly before I came out here. I’m supposed to be out here until next year. Then she may be coming back out before I leave. As much as we both hate knowing that, we both realize that being separated like this would be a possibility.

I know that those who just joined for college money didn’t get one sheet saying, “If you want college money, sign here.” I distinctly remember something like a thousand forms I had to sign. If something involves peoples lives, it would behoove them to read everything.

I’d like to thank all my fellow soldiers who’ve had to suffer through being here and enduring back-to-back deployments and not complaining like some soldiers who thought they were exempt from war because of their status.

As for the guys who “didn’t sign up for this,” it’s OK for them to say that they don’t want to be out here. It’s OK to say that they hate being here. But if they want to say it’s not what they signed up for, they should read their contracts again. Signing up for this is exactly what they did.

Sgt. Robert PeopleCamp Dogwood, Iraq

'The Waaaah Page'

Having served a combined 15 years in the Marines and Army National Guard, I have only two things to say:

1. The letters to the editor page needs a more appropriate title, something along the lines of “The Waaaah Page.”

2. To all the whiners who’ve written to “The Waaaah Page,” I say, “Waaaah!”

1st Lt. G. S. WilsonBaghdad, Iraq

September 17

Always a numbers game

I’m responding to the letter “Move on redeployment issues” (Sept. 3). Being a parent myself, I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that children are the ones who truly suffer. Take my son, for instance. He was born in November and two months later, my Reserve unit was called up again. (We served a year deployment.) After being home for 90 days, his father and I both are serving in Iraq and Kuwait.

I’ve missed major milestones in my son’s life, with more moments to come because we don’t know when we’re going home. Does he know us? No. Do I think he misses us? No. Will I bond with my child when I get home? I pray daily that I will.

I’ve read letters that said we volunteered for this possibility. But does my volunteering mean that I’m not allowed the opportunity to bond with my child?

My chain of command told me that my six weeks of maternity leave were up, so therefore I had to report to duty. When I got to my Main Operations Base station, I was told that I was allowed four months to be with my child. So I was given the option to go home for two more months and then be activated with another unit from anywhere in the United States to go anywhere in the world for any length of time, or be deployed with my original unit for one year. I wasn’t told that if I went home that I could catch up with my unit. (We left numerous soldiers back who have joined us.)

To me, it’s always a numbers game in the military. Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. But some of the military’s tactics need to change.

Sgt. Stacie LockhartNavistar, Kuwait

Native Americans in military

The war with Iraq has helped me to better understand my own life. I’ve seen many people die, including one of my fellow soldiers. I’ve heard of other soldiers being killed. War is cruel, yet we do it to make freedom. Life has different meanings for different people, but we’re all the same. We’re all human beings full of hope, joy, love and great passion to live. That’s what I see in my life.

I was in the desert after air assaulting from Camp Pennsylvania into unknown territory ahead of all main troops. It hadn’t even been a day, and we got the news that a convoy had been ambushed. I didn’t know who was attacked or where it happened. But that alone made my views change and realize that life is up for grabs.

We got into Baghdad and got our first Stars and Stripes. I read the article on the ambush. I saw that the first female U.S. servicemember to be killed was a Native American of Hopi descent named Pfc. Lori Piestewa. This made me realize that the Army sure is multicultural. Yet the only time people recognize minorities is when something bad happens. As in Piestewa’s case, I don’t think the Army recognizes the Native American population.

We recently found out that another Native American passed away. It happened in Germany. He was a young man who had barely experienced life. He lost it all, killed by two very immature men. Again Stars and Stripes recognized a Native American in a bad situation. His name was Clint Lamebear.

Why isn’t diversity recognized within the Army? Not just Native Americans, but other races, too. A prime example: We’ve forgotten about our “Windtalkers.” The Japanese never broke the Navajo code during World War II.

I’d like to get feedback to this letter if possible, and also any news of organizations supporting Native Americans in the military. I also want to pay my respects to the families that lost two great soldiers.

I, too, am a Native American from Santo Domingo Pueblo, N. M. I’m with the 101st Airborne Division’s Screaming Eagles from Fort Campbell, Ky. I’m assigned to the 5th Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. I work as a line medic with Company B, 3rd Platoon. I’ve been with them from the very beginning of the war on terrorism, from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Spc. Pete TenorioIraq

Stripes gives troops a voice

It’s with no small measure of amusement that I’ve followed the ongoing battle between those who complain and those who believe we should all “suck it up and drive on.” Every single soldier, sailor, Marine, airman and Coast Guardsman in Iraq and Kuwait is making a sacrifice to be here. Some sacrifices are greater than others, but we don’t get to choose the time or the magnitude of that sacrifice.

I recommend that the people who ask us to remember those who served in World War II to find and read Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front.” They’ll find a hilarious account of two cartoon infantrymen complaining their way across Europe. Mauldin’s “Willie and Joe” exercised their constitutionally guaranteed right to complain throughout the war, and perhaps sparked some positive changes along the way.

As for those who scold us to “follow the oath,” I recall swearing to uphold a Constitution that holds free speech up as a pillar of our society, not something to be criticized or trodden upon. Combat is not the place to question orders, but certainly the pages of a newspaper representing a readership willing to die to defend a free press has room for a complaint or two.

I’ve always been impressed with the balance that Stars and Stripes represents. It’s not a typical spewer of the party line, but a true newspaper. I’m glad people have a voice here. Otherwise, the Army would think that mail service is outstanding and that living conditions are uniformly excellent throughout the theater.

Sgt. Joseph MartinKarbala, Iraq

Complaints dishonor the fallen

Those who complain about our living standards in Iraq commit a great disservice to those who have gone before us. Complaints mock fallen soldiers, both past and present. Hundreds have died here in Iraq, and many more will die. Thousands died in Vietnam. Must I compare their living conditions to ours?

I have a wife and two sons. I miss them dreadfully. But those who marched before me had it worse. Hundreds of thousands died in World War II. Must I compare our living conditions to theirs? World War II veterans fought for years with no end in sight.

Complaining soldiers need to discover their heritage, borne by men and women who have suffered pain of both body and mind. Complaining is not just a disservice but a mockery of those who’ve gone before us. We are soldiers doing our duty. Thank God we don’t have to do it living in the mud. Let us dishonor our predecessors no longer! Stop the complaining!

Spc. Issac WestbrookBaghdad, Iraq

Criticism out of line

It’s easy for someone to sit in the comfort of a building while reading Stars and Stripes and think, wow, our troops in Iraq are not living that bad. But to write the letter “Neither right time nor place” (Aug. 16) to a newspaper that we all read is another story.

I’ve served at Camp Doha, Kuwait, and I can assure readers that it’s a five-star hotel compared to the place we’re living in. Yet the writer can muster up the courage to write a letter about all the sniveling going on in Iraq while he sits in a nice, air-conditioned pad. Meanwhile, the rest of the soldiers and noncommissioned officers he wrote about live in the desert underneath camouflage nets with no air conditioning.

The writer is one of those people who lowers my soldiers’ morale from a distance. The reason NCOs here complain about living conditions isn’t for themselves. They do it for their soldiers since they place their soldiers’ needs above their own. Maybe the writer can stop, think, turn his finger around and point it at himself.

We’ll be in Iraq for an undisclosed amount of time, and we’ll do the jobs presented to us. But remember one thing: We’re doing our jobs and doing them with the littlest of things.

Sgt. Brian MillerIraq

September 18

Mission tough but beneficial

I’m currently deployed to Iraq on what started as a four-month deployment and will most likely end as a one-year tour. It’s unfortunate to be in a country where people truly need help, yet others don’t want the help or the change. In my five months here in Iraq, I’ve seen change for the good. I only hope that it continues. That will make our job here seem that much more important.

It’s easy for people back home to think that we don’t need to be here helping these people. But they don’t see the suffering and poverty that this country has endured for the past three decades. Many people here welcome us. Those who don’t hide and wait for their chance to strike, hoping to stop these people from having a better life.

I talk with my soldiers and even those who are not under me. Some days their morale is high. Other days it’s not. Some of them came straight to Iraq from basic and advanced individual training with little chance to see their families. Others like myself were pulled from other units to fill positions. We also had very little time to prepare our families for the deployment.

The one really good thing that we get related to morale is mail, but not much else. We’ve been doing the same thing for the last four months, and it will probably be another four months before our mission changes.

We’re getting closer to learning this place we call home. There’s a lot of tension among us from time to time. I think it’s caused by the job we’re doing. It never changes. It’s the same thing day in and day out. I think that everyone over here right now is probably going through the same things, so I want to put the word out to those of us who need to remember what it is we do and why.

Brian P. MillerIraq

Civilians living large in Iraq

I’m responding to articles and comments about long deployments to Iraq and low morale. I’d like to raise a point that’s not considered much. In the last four months, I’ve observed how several coalition partners and civilian agencies have luxuries beyond those of military units. They stay in luxury hotels and have things like air-conditioned sport utility vehicles, high-class meals, drinking parties, and all the gloating that goes with it.

I’m not complaining as much about the gap in luxury items as I am about the gloating and inhospitable nature behind it. A boost in morale would result if quality time were spent in opening house and helping each other keep our spirits up.

John LeFurgeBaghdad, Iraq

No boasting on letters page

I read the glowing letter “MPs keep convoys safe” (Aug. 29) praising the 300th Military Police Company. It was gushy and self-promoting. It was written by a lieutenant assigned to the 300th. Since this forum is being used for self-praise, let me retort.

The 105th Military Police Company (Nevada Army National Guard) is located just above the 300th on Main Support Route Tampa. The difference is that when people enter the 105th area of operations, their chances of coming under attack rise tenfold. In our AO we’ve had ambushes, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and drive-by shootings that were fatal to both U.S. soldiers and U.N. civilians. And that’s not to mention the now-daily improvised explosive device attacks which have proven fatal in too many cases. Our base camp has also become a target for mortars.

The 300th has a platoon here in our camp, and its members patrol at night. But they have the luxury of up-armored Humvees. We don’t have these, and everyone here knows the result of an IED attack on a soft Humvee, as we’ve said farewell to our brother Sgt. Heath McMillian.

The bottom line is this: Writers shouldn’t try to glorify themselves on these pages. We’ve got a job to do here, and for some it’s far more dangerous than for others. We’re MPs and we’re all cops.

Sgt. Jeremy LewisIraq

Promotion system unfair

I agree with the letter “Promotions by the book” (Aug. 29). The promotion system is really unfair.

This is my second deployment. I’ll be here for another year, like my year tour in Bosnia. Can we get promotion points for deployments? I know a lot of soldiers who have gotten promoted by just sitting and doing correspondence courses. They go to school and don’t do their jobs.

I just lost 48 points because they took out military occupational specialty-related schools that I’ve been in. That’s all the schooling I got, and they took it out. This is disappointing. I’ve been doing my job and doing other people’s jobs. I’ve learned a lot in cross-training. If I’m not busy, I do other things to gain knowledge. Can I get points for cross-training too?

I should get my E-6 quick. Being a 52D is no joke. I’m in a killer MOS. If I’m on other MOSs, I should be E-7 by now. 52Ds are on the move here in Iraq. We’re an asset. We power up buildings, tents, dining facilities, tactical operations centers, etc. We feel we’re taken for granted.

Maria J.C. BascoIraq

September 19

I remember, so I serve

On Sept. 11 I cried, as my fellow public service workers died protecting the lives of American citizens. I will remember.

When my fellow soldiers returned from Afghanistan, crippled, I was filled with sorrow. I will remember.

When my wife of four months wept as I went to war, I was sad. I will remember.

As soldiers from my battalion die in combat, I remember.

I remember the day that terrorists attacked my home state, my country and my freedom. Have we forgotten why we’re here? I remember.

I’ve served my county for 21 years, enlisted and commissioned, active and Reserve, through peace and war, and I still remember. I remember that America was attacked and that I’m a soldier. I don’t complain. I serve America, the freest nation in the world. I serve with pride, for I am in the National Guard, and I will defend my country.

Capt. Kirk A. BizubCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Don't use GIs as pawns

I’m a National Guardsman for the 105th Personnel Service Division out of Lincoln, Neb. My unit is stationed at Camp Wolf, Kuwait. We were deployed on Feb. 2. We arrived in Jordan in April, and half of us were moved a week later to Kuwait to throw mail. When our unit came back together in June we had a fragmentary order to go home. But the order was revoked, and we ended up replacing an active Army unit. We were told then that our return date was Dec. 1. We now hear that we’ll be here for a full year. We’re under 3rd Personnel Command.

My unit works in-processing and redeploying for theater. We’re doing a great job and working hard to treat each soldier with care and consideration. They’ve spread out our 44 soldiers to replace an active unit that had more than 50 soldiers and to replace a National Guard unit that had more than 60 soldiers. We’re running 24/7 operations for these two units, and four of our soldiers are also on the redeployment side working validation for another unit. We’re spread so thin and working so hard.

The knocks on our morale are devastating. We’re physically able, but mentally and spiritually we’re dying. If Army National Guard retention is anything of importance, we need to have faith in our government and leaders. But we can’t see anyone taking a stand for soldiers.

This isn’t a simple board game of “Axis and Allies.” This is a game with real people with families. We’re not robots. There are students out here missing more than a year of college. Officers say that PERSCOM (Personnel Command) refers to moving soldiers as “drug deals” (You do this for me and I’ll make sure your soldiers go home, etc.).

My duty is to serve my country despite her faults. I won’t be able to ETS while here, and I accept that. I’m here to serve out of obligation and duty. But are there any checks and balances on those making decisions here? Everyone keeps saying it’s up in the air, including those responsible for deciding who goes where. It feels as if every decision is off the cuff. There should be plans in place and decisions made before the rubber hits the road.

We’re slowly becoming frantic. I hear people say that they’re going to begin hurting themselves or others if they can’t go home. The helplessness our soldiers are feeling is indescribable. It’s past the point of, “Suck it up and drive on.” We just want somewhere to drive on to.

Sgt. Leanne DuffyCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Make best of deployment

I’ve been in Iraq for six months, and every issue of Stars and Stripes that I’ve received is filled with complaint after complaint. I understand that’s what lower enlisted soldiers do. That’s the way they relieve stress and let their leaders know what they’re having problems with. But I don’t understand the sergeants. I call them sergeants because that’s exactly what they are. If this deployment drives them out, good. We don’t need sergeants. We need noncommissioned officers.

A one-year deployment is difficult. I should know. This is my second one in the short time I’ve been in. Just like my first deployment, this one has its hardships. But complaining and putting dirty laundry in the streets isn’t going to help. What’s going to help is coming together and making the best that we can of the situation.

With a deployment, things aren’t going to be exactly the way the complainers want them to be. At first things are going to be unbearable. But over time it will get better. The complainers have to give their leaders time to assess the situation, figure out what needs to be fixed, and prioritize when they’ll be fixed. Getting the Internet, phones and post exchanges aren’t going to be on the top of that list. Saving lives and getting the mission done will be.

Lower enlisted soldiers complain because they see sergeants complain. By no means am I saying one doesn’t have a right to complain. But as NCOs we have a responsibility, and complaining to a newspaper or in the presence of our soldiers isn’t setting the example we need to set.

So it’s time for sergeants to put up or shut up. They should read the creed, remember the creed and live by the creed. Otherwise they should get out and move on. I’m tired of hearing their sniveling. The Army is not the Boy Scouts or summer camp. It’s their job, and some of them need to start doing it. If they came in for the college money, so be it. They should do their time and move on.

Staff Sgt. Michael J. StrawTikrit, Iraq

Earned right to complain

I’m tired of all the active-duty military members telling all the guardsmen and reservists to suck it up and that we signed up for this.

No, we didn’t sign up for this. When I signed my contract to join the National Guard, I was fully aware that I stood the chance of being federally activated. But I don’t remember reading anywhere in my contract about back-to-back deployments for more than two years. I also don’t recall reading in my contract that being a guardsman or reservist subjects one to fewer morale supplies, simple military supplies, halfway updated equipment, and doing without basic necessities that active-duty components such as the 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division are privy to.

We joined the Reserve and National Guard to be part time. Six-month and maybe even one-year deployments are acceptable for a part-time force. But deployments of more than a year are definitely not, especially when there are many active-duty units that have yet to deploy since Sept. 11, 2001.

For both of my unit’s deployments, we were called up and out of the state within a week. I twice left my house, family, career, school and everything else in my life and placed the burden on the people around me. I’ve lost more money in the last two years than most soldiers make in two years.

Readers should picture their salaries being cut in half with their bills remaining the same. Thank God I don’t have children. I can’t even begin to fathom the difficulties that kids would bring.

Active-duty personnel signed up for this to be their sole, full-time occupation and life. Maybe they should deal with the fact that guardsmen and reservists are tired of picking up their slack. We have earned every right to complain.

Spc. Rustun K. SchackCamp Caldwell, Iraq

September 20

AAFES does great job

I’ve been in the Army for 22 years and am currently stationed in Kuwait. Since I arrived in April, I’ve steadily seen the Army and Air Force Exchange Service try to improve its inventory and delivery methods. The writer of the Sept. 1 letter “AAFES lacking in Iraq” needs to really take a good look at the people who provide AAFES services. These people are civilians, many of whom are dependents of military or retired military members. Instead of griping about what she doesn’t have, the writer should consider the blessings of what she does have. She should consider herself very fortunate that she has an AAFES located near her that’s staffed by a volunteer who could otherwise be back in the States or at his assignment base living the life of comfort.

It’s unfortunate that there are items that have expired in transit, and I know AAFES will take a look at the situation. But we all have to remember that the time constraints for mail also affect AAFES. It takes time for items to be shipped from the supplier to a warehouse, from the States to Kuwait, and further shipped to remote points such as many of our satellite camps and bases across Kuwait and Iraq.

AAFES does go where we go, and I’m very grateful for anything and everything it does for me and the troops. I’ve also experienced having a box of crackers that tasted funny. But instead of using this forum to bash the very people who are trying to serve us the very best they can, the letter writer decided to insult them. My wife often tells me that more flies can be attracted with honey than with vinegar. Anger our AAFES employees, and the writer will see how much she receives.

According to the writer, AAFES should have a stand at every location and every post. Heck, why don’t we just have AAFES set up shop at every mile along the main supply routes just so the writer isn’t inconvenienced.

I think AAFES is doing a great job, and every soldier who gets the privilege of enjoying its services ought to consider himself very lucky that we have AAFES at our disposal. I’m sorry about the soldiers who don’t have access to AAFES stores. But they should be patient. They’re coming.

Master Sgt. Todd PaiceKuwait

Experience means something

I’d like to respond to the Aug. 29 letter “Promotions by the book.” The writer is a soldier who said he spends so much time in the field that he can’t get promoted, and that other soldiers with degrees are promoted ahead of him. The writer also said he feels that his experience means nothing.

If the leadership in the writer’s unit was doing their job of leading, training and caring for their soldiers, he wouldn’t have this problem. At every military installation there’s an office for personnel seeking equal opportunity. It’s the Equal Employment Opportunity program, and every unit is supposed to have someone to discuss equal opportunity rights.

There’s an office here in Kuwait, as well as the Office of Inspector General if this soldier isn’t afforded his right to due process.

The writer’s experience means something, and he shouldn’t ever feel that it doesn’t.

Sgt. 1st Class James FieldsKuwait

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up