Topic: ARMY


by Spc. Neisha Rogers

Washington (Army News Service, March 21, 2000) – More than 400 chaplains and chaplain assistants have assembled a stain glass window in honor of victims of the Sept. 11 Pentagon tragedy. The Chaplain Corps Annual Senior Leadership Training conference at Hilton Head SC provided each attendee with a numbered piece of glass to place in the window frame in early March.

The Chaplain Corps will hang the window (shown at left) in a memorial chapel planned for construction in the area of the Pentagon destroyed by the hijacked airliner.

“Through creation of this stained glass window, we expressed our faith as well as honored those we remember who were taken from us,” said Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Gaylord T. Gunhus.

Dennis E. Roberts, artist and owner of IHS Studios in Fredricksburg TX, donated the piece. He said he was honored and privileged to be able to help create something to remember the victims of the attacks, especially considering his own military service.

Roberts spent more than 50 hours designing and more than three weeks cutting some 500 pieces of glass to fit into the frame. There are 184 red pieces representing the 184 men and women who were killed at the Pentagon.

“It is awe inspiring — the artist donating his time to design it and then letting the soldiers put it together. It's like being a part of another part of history,” said Master Sgt. Rashida Valvassori, 77th Regional Support Command, Fort Totten, NY.

“It is very symbolic to take the broken pieces of glass and put them together to make a beautiful picture,” said Lt. Col. Richard D. King, chief of Personnel Proponent Office, Chaplains Center and School, Fort Jackson, S.C.

The focus of the conference was on spiritual leadership, and having a positive influence on soldiers. Many in attendance were stationed near the areas that were attacked. They said being a part of the assembly had special meaning because it allowed them to begin their own healing process.

“It gives us a chance to reflect, refocus, and renew our spirit,” said Gen. Gunhus.


Soldiers may have armed robots as battle buddies by early next year, according to industry and military officials attending the biennial Army Science Conference.

By Sgt. Lorie Jewell

Orlando, FL Dec. 3, 2004 (Army News Service) – Soldiers may have armed robots as battle buddies by early next year, according to industry and military officials attending the biennial Army Science Conference.

The Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System, or SWORDS, will be joining Stryker Brigade Soldiers in Iraq when it finishes final testing, according to Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos, a bomb disposal test and evaluation NCOIC, assigned to the EOD Technology Directorate of the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.

“We’re hoping to have them there by early 2005,” Tordillos said. “The Soldiers I’ve talked to want them yesterday.”

The system consists of a weapons platform mounted on a Talon robot, a product of the engineering and technology development firm Foster-Miller. The Talon began helping with military operations in Bosnia in 2000, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2002 and has been in Iraq since the war started, assisting with improvised explosive device detection and removal. Talon robots have been used in about 20,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Foster-Miller reports.

“It’s not a new invention, its just bringing together existing systems,” said Tordillos, who has been involved with the project since its inception about a year and a half ago.

Different weapons can be interchanged on the system – the M16, the 240, 249 or 50-caliber machine guns, or the M202 –A1 with a 6mm rocket launcher. Soldiers operate the SWORDS by remote control, from up to 1,000 meters away. In testing, it has hit bulls-eyes from as far as 2,000 meters away. The only margin of error has been in sighting. “It can engage while on the move, but it’s not as accurate,” Tordillos added.

The system runs off AC power, lithium batteries or Singars rechargeable batteries. The control box weighs about 30 pounds, with two joysticks that control the robot platform and the weapon and a daylight viewable screen. Time Magazine recently named SWORDS one of the most amazing inventions of 2004.

Project Leader Bob Quinn credits Soldiers with getting the project started. “It’s a classic boot-strap effort.” he said.

Tordillos fielded a variety of questions while showing off the system in the exhibit hall.

Soldiers wanted to know “what military occupational specialty will I need to work with the system,” but there is no specific MOS at this time.

“Does he envision a day when armed robots outnumber humans on the battlefield?” Tordillos firmly said no. “You’ll never eliminate the Soldier on the ground. There’ll be a mix, but there will always be Soldiers out there.”


Risk more than others think is safe.

Care more than others think is wise.

Dream more than others think is practical.

Expect more than others think is possible.

Cadet maxim, USMA, West Point, NY



By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

Since 1958, the Association of Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy has presented the Sylvanus Thayer Award to an outstanding U.S. citizen whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify devotion to the ideals expressed in the Academy's motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Colonel Thayer graduated from the Academy in 1808 and served as its fifth superintendent from 1817 to 1833. He instituted principles of academic and military training based upon integration of character and knowledge that became the Academy's hallmark. Under his direction the Academy became the finest engineering school in America and a pattern for the study of engineering copied by later institutions of learning.

On May 12, 1962, at West Point, the association's president, LtGen. Leslie R. Groves, (USA Ret.), presented this award to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

MacArthur's touching response is considered by many to be one of the most inspiring military speeches ever delivered. KEEPING APACE reprints it here as something every service member might retain and read occasionally to reaffirm what it means to be a military professional:

“General Westmoreland, General Groves, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of The Corps:

“As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, 'Where are you bound for, General?' and when I replied, 'West Point,' he remarked, 'Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?'

“No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this (Thayer Award). Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code - the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the meaning of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always.

“Duty - Honor - Country. These three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

“The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pendant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule. But these are some of the things they do.

“They build your basic character, they mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense, they make you strong enough to know when you are weak, brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

“They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, nor to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future but never neglect the past; to be serious but never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom. the meekness of true strength.

“They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease.

“They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life.

“They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

“And what kind of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable, are they brave, are they capable of victory?

“Their story is known to all of you; it is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regard him now - as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters but also as one of the most stainless.

“His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience in adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words.

“He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism; he belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom; he belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnigation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

“As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the first World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by wind and rain; driving home to their objective - and for many, to the judgment seat of God. I do not know the dignity of their birth but I do know the glory of their death.

“They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them - Duty - Honor - Country; always the blood and sweat and tears as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

“And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropical disease, the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory - always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of Duty - Honor - Country.

“The code which these words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training: sacrifice.

“In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave him when He created man in His own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

“You now face a new world - a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres and missiles marked the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution.

“We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms; of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; of purifying sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war no longer limited to the armed forces of the enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forcers of some other galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

“And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable - it is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs great or small will find others for their accomplishment; but you are the ones who are trained to fight; yours is the profession of arms - the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty - Honor - Country.

“Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half, you have defended, guarded and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

“Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be.

“These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty - Honor - Country.

“You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown, in khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty - Honor - Country.

“This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

“The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished tone and tint; they have gone glimmering through the things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday.

“I listen vainly but with thirsty ear for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and reechoes Duty - Honor - Country.

“Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

“I bid you farewell.”


By Karen Fleming-Michael, Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Public Affairs

FORT DETRICK, Md. (Army News Service, April 21, 2005) — Medics on the not-so-distant battlefield may get assistance with the triage of injured Soldiers from a new system called Warfighter Physiological Status Monitoring (WPSM), using leading-edge technology such as electronic textiles.

“The medic will remotely know who's been injured and who he should go to first versus what we do now - which is have the medic run to and find an injured Soldier, not knowing if another individual is in worse shape just 20 yards to the left,” said Col. Beau Freund of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass.

“There's only one medic per a large group of Soldiers, so WPSM can provide situational awareness so a medic knows who is hurt and perhaps the extent of their injuries, so he can make some informed decisions about where he should be to save lives,” Freund said.

A group of experts in physiology, engineering, electronics and textiles is developing WPSM for the Future Force Warrior, an Army science and technology initiative. The team, Freund said, is on schedule to deliver a system in 2006 that at a minimum must be able to detect if a Soldier is alive or has received a ballistic impact. On the preventive medicine side, the WPSM system also needs to be able to detect how much fluid the Solider is drinking and if the Soldier is in danger of a heat injury.

Future Force Warrior, Freund said, “is looking at what is possible and what capabilities we might be able to add to our war fighters in the near future. Let's build some systems, test them and pick from the cream of the crop which ones we want to include now and which ones will require future development.”

Read complete story here [].


By Staff Sgt. Raymond Piper

KUWAIT – (Army News Service, Feb. 16, 2005) The Raven could very well be “the little engine that could” of the unmanned aerial vehicle fleet.

Weighing in at four and a half pounds with a five-foot wingspan and stretching a mere 38 inches in length, the Raven is by far one of the smallest vehicles in the Army, but its aerial reconnaissance value quickly earned the respect of battalion commanders in Iraq and filled a niche at the battalion level when larger UAVs are unavailable.

“The system is developing the confidence of the leadership,” said Maj. Chris Brown, Kuwait Raven Equipping Detachment officer in charge. “We had one commander's team find an IED (improvised explosive device) on its first mission, and the commander has been sold ever since.”

The Raven flies various missions that aid in force protection. It is flown to search for IEDs, provide reconnaissance for patrols and flies the perimeter of camps.

“When a company or battalion can't get the larger UAV, such as the Hunter, Shadow and Inet, the Raven works very well,” said Chief Warrant Officer Steve Schisler, Raven integration and customer service officer.

Schisler explained that the Raven is best employed in conjunction with ground forces. “If you have guys doing a mounted or dismounted patrol in a city or a small town, you can have the Raven flying overhead providing far-sight security.
The patrol can't see past the building 100 meters in front of them, but the Raven can. The Raven can see beyond the building… to where two terrorists with their AK-47s are running to engage the patrol. The Soldiers can then respond to the intelligence rather than respond to an attack.”

The UAV is small and can be transported easily in three small cases that fit into a ruck sack. The crew can bring it with them and operate wherever the patrol goes.

The Raven has three different cameras that attach to the nose of the plane - an electrical optical camera that sends data either through a nose camera or a side camera, an infrared camera in the nose, and a side-mounted IR camera that is too large to fit into the nose section of the plane.

“You have to select what camera is going to be best for the mission at hand,” Brown said. “For example, if you're flying over a city and there are shadows, the IR camera can penetrate the shadows and show the hotspots.”

One of the advantages of the Raven is that it provides real time data that can be recorded to a video camera.

The Raven has about 45 to 60 minutes of flight time on a battery. The kit comes with spare batteries and a charger that plugs into a Humvee so they can land it, pop in a spare battery and get it back in the air.

Schisler’s role with the Raven had him travel throughout Iraq to provide customer service to units who flew the UAV. The longest continuous operation Schisler recalled was for more than 10 hours, where they would land the plane, change batteries and launch the aircraft again.

Where large UAVs need space to taxi and land, the Raven is launched by hand and requires one pilot and a second person to monitor the incoming information.

Brown said, “The Raven is not MOS specific, but rather the question is who the unit can use?”

One example Brown gave was the food service specialists in Iraq have a smaller role because the food services are contracted to Kellogg, Brown and Root.

“One of the best pilots in the 1st Cav. is a cook, but that doesn't mean we don't have … scouts operating the Raven,” he said. “Some of these kids have been raised with Playstation in their hands and are better able to handle watching a screen and controlling the aircraft.”

A single Raven costs about $35,000 and the total system costs $250,000 but that is a cheap OH-58C, Brown said. “With this system, we replace a helicopter and crew that's down range and put a system at risk rather than people.”


From the Army News Service

All Soldiers can now wear the U.S. flag insignia on the right shoulder of their utility uniform, as a continued reminder that the Army is engaged in a war at home and abroad. This practice has been around for years to identify deploying troops.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker approved the uniform item 11 FEB 04 and all Soldiers have until 1 OCT 05 to get the insignia sewn on their uniforms. A message on the uniform policy went out to the force 14 February announcing the current policy of deployed Soldiers wearing the U.S. flag on utility uniforms is expanded to include all Soldiers throughout the force regardless of deployment status.

Currently there are not enough flags in the inventory, which is why Soldiers have a substantial amount of time to get the flags sewn on. Deploying troops have the priority. Everyone else will have to wait until the Defense Logistics Agency has more in stock. An estimated 30 million flags need to be procured.

Enlisted Soldiers will not have to purchase the flags. They will be issued five flags from their assigned unit, and commanders will make arrangements for getting the insignia sewn on. However, if Soldiers purchase the flags on their own, they will not be reimbursed. When purchasing the flag, the only ones authorized for wear on the uniform is the reverse field flag in red, white and blue. Subdued flags and those in other colors are in violation of U.S. code.

Individuals should comply with Army Regulation 670-1, Wear and Appearance of the Army Uniform and Insignia. The regulation still states that Soldiers are not authorized to wear the full-color cloth U.S. flag replica upon their return to home station. However, the latest change will be added to the regulation when it is revised sometime this year.

Nothing has changed regarding the placement of the flag. It is sewn below the shoulder seam. If a combat patch is also placed on the right shoulder, the flag is sewn 1/8 inch below the combat patch. The flag is worn on the right shoulder to give the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.


By John M. Benson, Pawling News Chronicle.
Forward by Bill Thompson 06/02/2006

Christian Labra graduated from Pawling High School (NY) with the Class of 1997, graduated with honors from West Point Military Academy with the Class of 2001, and deployed to Iraq with U.S. Army in 2003, where he sustained severe injuries.

Labra received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the auditorium full of the entire student body, as he completed his keynote speech at the induction ceremony for the Mary F. Taber Chapter of the National Honor Society at Pawling High School on May 26.

His address to the Honor Society and the entire student body is as follows:

First of all, I would just like to congratulate the students getting inducted today into the National Honor Society. For many of you, this is probably not the first recognition of academic success and surely won't be the last. I am honored and flattered that you have invited me to speak. For the parents, guests and fellow students, I hope the students inspire you to achieve success wherever your interests lie. This ceremony is one of the many payoffs for keeping your eye on the ball. Congratulations for all your hard work.

I was inducted here about 10 years ago, sitting right there in your shoes. It makes me feel pretty old, but I feel better knowing that must make Mr. Tolan feel really old. Ten years sounds like a long time, but it really isn't. I've heard that a million times, and I didn't believe it, just as I'm sure you won't believe me. But please take to heart what I say, because I understand how hard it is to be sitting in your shoes. Ten years is not long enough to forget the difficulties you face.

When I was inducted, the speaker was Mr. James Earl Jones, so as you can imagine, Darth Vader's boots are some pretty tough shoes to fill. No offense to Mr. Jones, but he had it pretty easy. We really didn't care what he said, as long as he threw around a “May the force by with you!” or a “Luke, I am your father.” Unfortunately, I have no catchphrase for you, but hopefully, I can at least keep it short, knowing that today is a half-day.

I stand here in uniform due to the formality of the event. And as you all know, my experiences in Iraq are a big part of why I am qualified to speak to you. I'm not here to sugarcoat the war, recruit you into service, or try to sway your opinion of foreign policy. And I hope that I don't rely too much on war stories to impart the lessons I've learned, but a war story here and there never hurts.

The theme of your induction is growth. This is actually something I can comment on.

As long as I can remember, academic success came easily for me. In elementary school, I was a bright kid and before I knew it, I got tagged as a “smart kid” and gained a reputation that really made it easy to sustain successes, probably not unlike a lot of you up here. I graduated Pawing without ever really being truly tested, or at least, never tested on the level that I would later be. Nonetheless, I had the usual high school drama, but I never really considered that I may mess up anything important. I was comfortable with success and fate seemed to look out for me.

I had my first minor wake-up call at West Point, but once again, I was able to start rising among my peers and finished up with a pretty successful career at the academy.

Things just seemed to work out for me. I entered the Army and once again, I became the go-to guy in my unit. I deployed to Iraq and was in charge of a tight group of guys who trusted my abilities with their lives and vice versa, and as luck would have it, the soldiers and sergeants I inherited were stellar.

As a platoon leader of 40 soldiers in downtown Baghdad, I wielded a good deal of power over both my soldiers and over the Iraqis. I don't want to sound like a power monger, because I say that with deep respect for the responsibility that was entrusted to me. I viewed it as a deep honor and didn't want to fail my soldiers who trusted my orders, the Iraqi men and women who relied on our fair security, and just as importantly, I didn't want to fail my country.

One evening on a patrol, that all came crashing down around me, literally. In a second, everything changed and I believed fate had finally turned her back on me. The emotional and physical recovery from my injuries was exhausting and demoralizing. This feeling of failure was overwhelming, and coupled with a consistent flow of morphine, I was a wreck, as you could imagine.

Immediately, I received more support than I ever had in my life. From the medic that performed my initial care, to the nurse who woke me up and ran her fingers through my hair to comfort me, and I still vow to ask her to marry me if I ever meet her again; to my doctor, a fellow West Pointer who became my finest mentor and whose alma mater I will attend for medical school; to my parents who dropped everything, flew to Europe to ensure their boy was OK; to my sister who held down the fort in New York and answered the millions of questions of what happened; to my soldiers' wives and children who ensured I knew they viewed me as
part of the family; and finally to this community.

I remember immaturely bashing Pawling as a fish bowl where everybody knew everyone else's business. I'm sure the students here can relate. But the outpouring of support from this town and school was amazing. It is something that cannot ever be repaid, and while I may never repay the principal of that loan, maybe I can work off some of the interest.

The most important medals I received from Iraq are the two titanium rods still running the length of the broken bones in my legs. Personally, they symbolize the perspective I gained on life. I was incredibly lucky. It is so easy to bumble through the daily ankle-biters of life, and feel you are fighting through your obstacles alone. I saw the network that was looking out for me, and most importantly, I let it carry me through the storm in order to finally grow. You are all part of that network and I am forever indebted.

Things started to look OK again. My wounds began to heal, I was recovering in Germany, my unit was scheduled to return from Iraq, and life in general started to return to some degree of normalcy. Then bad news hit from Iraq.

My soldiers were extended to support the Iraqi elections, and then they started getting hurt, badly hurt. Within weeks, all of my closest subordinate leaders were dead or wounded and in Germany. The situation was as bad as anything I've ever witnessed in my life. Eight of my soldiers were killed, and the majority of the rest were hurt or maimed. The wives and mothers of those soldiers felt that cold feeling that fate had turned on them, and I was beginning to know the feeling well. It was tough. Men that seemed infallible to me died, and the finality of it is still hard to swallow.

Unfortunately, nothing will bring those guys back, and it is a burden that my generation of veterans and the deceased families will carry forever, but standing here in this ceremony is all part of healing that wound, and ultimately growing.

I can tell you from personal experience, war is ugly, politics are ugly at times, and even people can be pretty ugly. It can be easy to fall into the trap of confusing the soldiers with the politics. But I can tell you, those soldiers in Iraq were not there in order to get cheaper gas, nor were they there primarily to liberate the Iraqis, although that became a strong motivation. Those men and women are there in order to fulfill their commitment to do what their nation asked as honorably as they can, so that you can take advantage of the liberties we exercise in this country.

Service in the military is not for everyone, but every American has the responsibility to live their lives to the fullest and seek greatness, in order to repay the sacrifices of parents, teachers, mentors, and service members who constantly push this nation to better and better things.

The honorees today are realizing that greatness and if there is a heaven, I know my soldiers are looking down on you all with pride, knowing that you are working to achieve your potential. I know that is a rosy picture of a horrendous event, but I truly believe it. Standing here makes every second worth it.

For me, true growth finally occurred when I realized that I could use my experiences to take care of soldiers who were also wounded in war. In preparing for this ceremony, I've decided that growth is when you take your experiences, your potential, and the experiences and sacrifices of others, and you finally realize that potential.

Growth is occurring throughout your time in high school and ultimately through your entire lives. Enjoy yourselves, because life's clock is ticking in one direction and things might not go the way you planned, as I quickly found out. But keep your focus on both targets. Have fun now, but don't close any doors on yourselves, because there are great things in store for you.

In reality, the bottom line is this: You guys and girls don't need the force to be with you. You have a network of people that care about you and who will carry you when you need it.

Travel the world, seek to understand the gray areas in life, and use those experiences to grow and to be great. When things get tough, know that at least this small town will have you back.

I am living proof of it.

Thank you for letting me speak and proving to me that the last two years were worth it.

Labra is a captain in the U.S. Army, and he has been accepted to study medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda Maryland.



Two weeks ago, as I was starting my sixth month of duty in Iraq, I was forced to return to the USA for surgery for an injury I sustained prior to my deployment. With luck, I'll return to Iraq in January to finish my tour. I left Baghdad and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn 60 years old in just four months, but I'm tired:

I'm tired of spineless politicians, both Democrat and Republican who lack the courage, fortitude, and character to see these difficult tasks through.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy of politicians who want to rewrite history when the going gets tough.

I'm tired of the disingenuous clamor from those that claim they 'Support the Troops' by wanting them to 'Cut and Run' before victory is achieved.

I'm tired of a mainstream media that can only focus on car bombs and casualty reports because they are too afraid to leave the safety of their hotels to report on the courage and success our brave men and women are having on the battlefield.

I'm tired that so many American's think you can rebuild a dictatorship into a democracy over night.

I'm tired that so many ignore the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the voting booth and freely elect a Constitution and soon a permanent Parliament.

I'm tired of the so called 'Elite Left' that prolongs this war by giving aid and comfort to our enemy, just as they did during the Vietnam War.

I'm tired of anti-war protesters showing up at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. A family who's loved ones gave their life in a just and noble cause, only to be cruelly tormented on the funeral day by cowardly protesters is beyond shameful.

I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom - Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.

I'm tired that some are more concerned about the treatment of captives then they are the slaughter and beheading of our citizens and allies.

I'm tired that when we find mass graves it is seldom reported by the press, but mistreat a prisoner and it is front page news.

Mostly, I'm tired that the people of this great nation didn't learn from history that there is no substitute for Victory.


Joe Repya, LtCol, U.S. Army, 101st Airborne Division


Wife's song provides encouragement to spouse, others during separation
by John Ingle, Editor, The Sheppard Senator

They always seem to show a woman standing at a gate clinging to her children as her husband walks away. Heather Wagner was that woman five months ago when her husband, Tech. Sgt. James Wagner, an F-16 crew chief instructor at the 362nd Training Squadron, was sent on a one-year remote tour.

Not long before he left, the husband and wife were watching news footage of soldiers from Fort Sill, Okla., leaving for a deployment. The videographer captured the scene of a wife with children saying their good-byes as tears streamed down their faces.

Ms. Wagner said she could tell the difficulties of saying good-bye weighed heavy on her husband's heart. “I don't want you to look at this and think this is what we're going to be doing,” she said she explained to her husband of seven years.

“I could see it was still bothering him.” She wanted him to know that life will go on even though he is half a world away. That's why she wrote the song “Keep Living,” scheduled to release sometime in early 2006.

“I wanted to let my husband know that things are going to be all right,” she said. During one of the many phone conversations following his departure, Ms. Wagner said she told Sergeant Wagner she wrote a song for him. She sung it to him on the phone and helped set his mind at ease regarding how the family was holding up during his absence.

The song was intended to convey the thoughts of so many families faced with long deployments or remote tours. Ms. Wagner said she wanted to the song to give her husband a peace of mind and the ability to focus on his job and mission without wondering if his family was okay.

“I consider this my way of serving,” she said. Keep Living didn't stop living with the Wagners. Ms. Wagner said a friend of hers was having a hard time coping with the departure of her spouse. The two talked for a while and Ms. Wagner told the woman of the song she wrote. She, too, heard the mezzo-soprano sing the words of getting by while a service member was gone. She, too, felt encouraged by the simple, but powerful words.

Through word of mouth, news about the song reached other spouses and requests came in for copies of the 27-year-old's home recording of the song. “People I didn't know were knocking on my door,” she said.

After realizing the song could have a far-reaching affect on more spouses in the same situation, she turned to her father for financial support in having the track professionally recorded. With the help of her father and a friend from college, Ms. Wagner was able to work with Send Me Productions in Dallas to have the single produced. “It's not my ambition to be a singer,” she said, adding she would like to stay home with her three children, Kallie, 6, Ryan, 4, and Joshua, 1, and write music. “It just fell into my lap.”

The single is due to come out within the next couple of weeks, but pre-release orders can be made at <a href=“”. People can hear a sample of the song at the Web site, too.

Ms. Wagner has also teamed up with Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization that helps out military families. “My goal is to be able to write them a check for $50,000,” she said.

Her purpose now is to encourage as many spouses as possible who might have difficulties with the deployment of a service member. But, if Keep Living provides any indication, Ms. Wagner could provide that support for a very long time.

© 2005 Heather Wagner


Forwarded by AirBurd

What gives media editors access to classified material and the authority to disseminate it (under the guise of free speech) to sell their newspapers? Where does it serve the public interest to learn of classified programs that aid and abet an enemy whose soul purpose in life is to destroy this nation?

Army Lt. writes from Baghdad with a word for the New York Times:

Dear Messrs. Keller, Lichtblau & Risen:

Congratulations on disclosing our government's highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program (June 23). I apologize for not writing sooner. But I am a lieutenant in the United States Army and I spent the last four days patrolling one of the more dangerous areas in Iraq. (Alas, operational security and common sense prevent me from even revealing this unclassified location in a private medium like email.)

Unfortunately, as I supervised my soldiers late one night, I heard a booming explosion several miles away. I learned a few hours later that a powerful roadside bomb killed one soldier and severely injured another from my 130-man company.

I deeply hope that we can find and kill or capture the terrorists responsible for that bomb. But, of course, these terrorists do not spring from the soil like Plato's guardians. No, they require financing to obtain mortars and artillery shells, priming explosives, wiring and circuitry, not to mention for training and payments to locals willing to emplace bombs in exchange for a few months' salary. As your story states, the program was legal, briefed to Congress, supported in the government and financial industry, and very successful.

Not anymore. You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here. Next time I hear that familiar explosion — or next time I feel it — I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance.

And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated.

I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.

Very truly yours,

Tom Cotton
Baghdad, Iraq


From via YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret.) March 13, 2006

“UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU said that famous Army recruiting poster. But does he really? Not if you're a Ritalin-taking, overweight, Generation Y couch potato - or some combination thereof.

As for that fashionable “body art” that the military still calls a tattoo, having one is grounds for rejection, too. With U.S. casualties rising in wars overseas and more opportunities in the civilian work force from an improved U.S. economy, many young people are shunning a career in the armed forces.

But recruiting is still a two-way street - and the military, too, doesn't want most people in this prime recruiting age group of 17 to 24. Of some 32 million Americans now in this group, the Army deems the vast majority too obese, too uneducated, too flawed in some way, according to its estimates for the current budget year.

“As you look at overall population and you start factoring out people, many are not eligible to apply in the first place,” said Doug Smith, spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command.

Some experts are skeptical. Previous Defense Department studies have found that 75 percent of young people are ineligible for military service, noted Charles Moskos of Northwestern University. While the professor emeritus who specializes in military sociology says it is “a baloney number,” he acknowledges he has no figures to counter it.

“Recruiters are looking for reasons other than themselves,” said David R. Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, “so they blame the pool.”

The military's figures are estimates, based partly on census numbers. They are part of an elaborate analysis the military does as it struggles each year to compete with colleges and companies for the nation's best and brightest, plan for future needs and maintain diversity.

The Census Bureau estimates that the overall pool of people who would be in the military's prime target age has shrunk as American society ages. There were 1 million fewer 18- to 24-year olds in 2004 than in 2000, the agency says.

The pool shrinks to 13.6 million when only high school graduates and those who score in the upper half on a military service aptitude test are considered. The 30 percent who are high school dropouts are not the top choice of today's professional, all-volunteer and increasingly high-tech military force.

Other factors include:
* Rising rate of obesity; some 30 percent of U.S. adults are now considered obese.
* Decline in physical fitness; one-third of teenagers are now believed to be incapable of passing a treadmill test
Near-epidemic rise in the use of Ritalin and other stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
* Potential recruits are ineligible for military service if they have taken such a drug in the previous year.

Doctors prescribe these drugs to about 2 million children and 1 million adults a month, according to a federal survey. Many more are believed to be using such stimulants recreationally and to stay awake longer to boost academic and physical performance. Other potential recruits are rejected because they have criminal histories and too many dependents. Subtract 4.4 million from the pool for these people and for the overweight. Others can be rejected for medical problems, from blindness to asthma.

The Army estimate has subtracted 2.6 million for this group. That leaves 4.3 million fully qualified potential recruits and an estimated 2.3 million more who might qualify if given waivers on some of their problems. The bottom line: a total 6.6 million potential recruits from all men and women in the 32 million-person age group. In the budget year that ended last September, 15 percent of recruits required a waiver in order to be accepted for active duty services - or about 11,000 people of some 73,000 recruited.

Most waivers were for medical problems. Some were for misdemeanors such as public drunkenness, resisting arrest or misdemeanor assault - prompting criticism that the Army is lowering its standards. This year the Army is trying to recruit 80,000 people; all the services are recruiting about 180,000.

And about the tattoos: They are not supposed to be on your neck, refer to gang membership, be offensive, or in any way conflict with military standards on integrity, respect and team work. The military is increasingly giving waivers for some types of tattoos, officials said.


By Eric Cramer, Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2005

WASHINGTON — Maj. Alfred Rascon didn’t set out to do anything historic. He joined the Army at 17 because it was something he always wanted to do. In action, as a U.S. Army medic in Vietnam, his actions earned the Medal of Honor, awarded belatedly in the year 2000 as a result of lost paper work.

He twice served the Selective Service Administration as a civilian - once as inspector general, and a second time as the organization’s director. Now this 59-year-old major has returned to service as part of a retiree recall. He has visited both Iraq and Afghanistan, motivating and supporting troops in the field.

“Coming back on active duty was something I never had to think about,” Rascon said. “Some people probably think I’m not so smart to quit being the head of Selective Service and come back in as just a major, but it was the right thing to do.”

His efforts in current operations and in Vietnam are now a piece of history in a different sense, part of the “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” display at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History.

“I’ve been a Soldier since I was a kid,” Rascon said. “The best thing I can do now, in the field, is to touch someone, tell them I’ve been enlisted, I’ve been an officer, and I’ve been a civilian – and I know what they’re dealing with.”

Rascon carried a Medal of Honor flag with him everywhere he went while visiting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Everyone signed that flag – privates, generals, everyone,” Rascon said. “I came back with more than 700 signatures.”

The flag, Rascon’s Medal of Honor citation, and a “boonie” hat he wore while serving in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, are displayed next to an exhibit honoring Audey Murphy, the most decorated Soldier in the history of the United States.

Rascon earned his medal by putting his own body between machinegun fire and the patients he was serving in combat, and making a run for extra ammunition when one of the unit’s machineguns was running low. In the process, he received several wounds from machinegun fire and grenade fragments.

The former medic doesn’t make light of what he did to earn the Medal of Honor, nor does he brag. “There are Medal of Honor recipients of all colors and creeds,” he said. “I suppose you can say we are all victims of circumstance.”

Rascon said he was amazed by the response of troops in the field he visited. “Sometimes they were just awestruck because a Medal of Honor recipient was there. I had to let them know, ‘Hey, I’m just like

He has also visited the wounded in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “That’s an emotional roller coaster for me, because they’re so caught up in seeing a Medal of Honor recipient – they try to take care of me,” Rascon said.

Rascon said the military helped him become a success, taking him from being a poor child in an immigrant neighborhood in Oxnard, Calif. to director of the SSA. “I came in with nothing at all. I was Hispanic, and my education wasn’t like others,. I went back to Oxnard, and some of the people I grew up with remember taking my toys from me and picking on me – but they said ‘we always knew you'd make something of yourself.”

The Major is on medical hold at the moment. Doctors replaced both of his knees in surgery last year after the wear and tear of being in the field and climbing in and out of military vehicles wore down his cartilage. He said he is waiting on a medical board to determine his duty status. He waits with no regrets.

“Everything I’ve done, I’d do again,” he said. “In the Army, you take care of each other. We’re here for each other, and that’s the most important thing.”


By Jug Varner
Visited in September 1994

As a retired naval officer visiting the U. S. Military Academy for the first time, I couldn't resist sending a postcard to a retired Army friend — a West Point graduate who also served a tour here as a military instructor. When I saw him later, his response was, “I'm glad you finally got to see a real military post for a change!” Service rivalry aside, I had to admit he was right. I was thoroughly impressed.

West Point, the oldest of all service academies, is truly inspiring — with its beautiful natural setting in the mountain region of western New York, overlooking the wide Hudson River. Its Gothic architecture not only lends a feeling of substance and continuity, but history as well, as does its many statues, memorials and trophies of war and remembrance, dating back to the American Revolution.

Although the Military Academy was not founded until 1802, Gen. George Washington stationed a permanent garrison of troops at West Point in 1778. Controlling the Hudson River played a vital role in the ultimate defeat of British forces.

Throughout the years, The Corps has kept alive the Academy's customs and traditions. Except for minor adjustments for women, the cadet gray dress uniform has changed little from those worn by their early predecessors and are still made today by Academy tailors. The Plebe (Freshman) routine and control by upperclassmen is much the same as it has always been.

My friend's Plebe year was unusual to say the least. He was already a 1st LT, with three years active duty and prior college education, when he decided he wanted to make the Army his career. This was in the late 1940s, when it seemed to him the obvious avenue for career promotion would be as an Academy graduate in the regular Army, not as a reserve officer. Today, of course, officers who come through ROTC, OCS and other programs now have good career opportunities, but such was not the case right after WWII. So he sought appointment to the Academy, gave up his commission and good pay and began all over again as a Plebe. His upperclassmen made sure it would be a humbling year to remember for this former 1st Lt. Four years later he became a 2nd LT and never regretted his decision.

In addition to the outstanding education Academy graduates receive, they are instilled with a Code of Honor that decrees “a Cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do,” an appreciation of military history and tradition, a strong sense of duty, honor and country, and an esprit de corps that continues throughout their lives.

Students who enter West Point are not “the elite,” in terms of aristocracy or socioeconomic influence. They come from all walks of life, including the well-to-do, the working class, the disadvantaged and the racial minorities — a true representation of America. They are immersed four years in a value-enriched professional military culture, living 24 hours a day within a military organization, subject to the Honor Code and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Corps of Cadets numbers about 4,000 and is organized as a brigade of four regiments. Each regiment is made of three battalions of four companies each. The 36 companies each number from 100-120 Cadets from all four classes. Cadet leaders exercise command responsibility in most phases of cadet life. As members of the U.S. Army, they receive room, board, tuition and medical/dental care, and about $6,500 per year. Out of that amount, each must pay for a personal computer, uniforms, textbooks and activity fees.

Washington Hall provides one of the world's largest dining rooms, where the entire Corps take their family-style meals together in one sitting. They live in surrounding barracks named for famous generals such as Bradley, Eisenhower, Grant, Lee, MacArthur, Pershing, Scott and Sherman. Many other buildings and facilities are also named for West Point's famous graduates

Each generation that moves through the Academy is a reflection of America's cultures, politics and military requirements of their time. To satisfy a curiosity about whether today's “new breed” measure up to the military standards and expectations of my own service years, I asked my Academy hosts to arrange a private group interview with cadets from each year's class.

Two were female — a Plebe from North Dakota and a First Class from Illinois. The three male cadets, in their second and third years, were from New York, Texas and Utah. All five had diverse interests and backgrounds. Collectively, they represented rural, urban and suburban life and both large and small high schools. Our conversations were relaxed and off-the-cuff and their replies generally seemed to reflect true feelings.

The Plebe's responses were a bit hesitant, probably due to the daze of being new and under more pressure than she had anticipated. It was very early in her first semester and Plebe routine. By contrast, the senior cadet was sharp, poised, obviously in control of herself and her planned career pattern in hospital administration. Except for the third-year cadet who wanted Artillery, the other three were not yet ready to choose a specialty. Each was highly enthusiastic about the Corps and West Point. None expressed any doubt about being in the right place, although the Plebe wasn't as emphatic as the others.

I asked the senior if she ever had any concerns about successfully competing in this 87% male environment. She said she wasn't worried about the academics when she arrived here, because she always made good grades in school and continued doing so at the Academy. However, not being the athletic type, she had serious reservations about the physical aspects of the Army.

The big test came at the end of her first year, during the mandatory summer training at Camp Buckner. This is where cadets go to learn what the real Army is all about — with hands-on experience in weaponry, equipment, engineering work, communications, field exercises and all of the physical activities and conditioning that go with it. In this six-week period, she proved to herself and the Army that she could perform the physical requirements right along with everyone else. This turning point bolstered her self-esteem and she knew she would succeed.

If these five cadets are typical of today's Corps, and I believe they are, the Army of the future will be in good hands. Despite the negative headlines about problems that occasionally plague our military academies, those involved represent only a small percentage of the total Corps. The overwhelming majority of these young men and women are the cream of the crop mentally, morally and physically and should not be demeaned by the relatively few who go against the Code of Honor.

Their motto, “Duty - Honor - Country,” is the essence of The Corps. The implications of upholding these lofty ideals are sobering, but are “truth” to these future officers. The Long Gray Line of those who have gone before them serve as their inspiration to uphold this truth.

Another important facet of morality is the Cadet Chapel, which serves all faiths and plays an important role in West Point history and tradition. Only cadets and brides may walk the center aisle. All others must use the side aisles. Aloft inside are flags carried in ever major Army engagement since Revolutionary times. Its pipe organ is the largest of its kind in the nation. Its stained-glass windows beautifully emphasize its part in the overall scheme of cadet life.

The cadet regiments march in review on The Plain, once used as a drill field by Continental Army soldiers. Only three statues face it directly, as if honored as eternal reviewing officers - Gen. George Washington (later President), Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (later President) and Gen. Douglas MacArthur (later Supreme Commander of the Japanese occupation and chief architect of its Constitution). MacArthur's perfect scholastic record at the Academy has not yet been equaled.

Throughout the area are statues and other reminders of great achievements by those who have gone before. WWII Gen. George S. Patton's statue faces the Library. Locals say this placement is ironic because “Cadet Patton may never have even set foot in that building during his four years here.” He was the “goat” - last in his Class, academically. The Library honors many of its great alumni with special collections. An outstanding history of warfare museum is located adjacent to the Visitors Center, near Thayer Gate.

Trophy Point, with its spectacular view of the Hudson River, is the site of several historical monuments. One is the statue is of Civil War Gen. John Sedgewick, who never lost a battle, including the one that took his life at Spotsylvania. On the General's boots are the actual spurs he wore in that battle. There is a myth that “any cadet who experiences serious academic problems can pass the course in question if he or she can: sneak out at midnight, wearing full dress gray uniform in the light of a full moon, spin the rowels of Gen. Sedgewick's spurs and return to quarters without ever being discovered.” Maybe that is how Cadet Patton did it!

Today's high school student seeking the right college environment may wonder, “Is West Point for me?” The answer depends on his or her mental and physical qualifications, attitude, character and desire. It is not a place one should go to please parents, a coach or guidance counselor. He or she must want to be here more than at any other college and have the right stuff to succeed. It will not be easy, but the rewards can be great.

An applicant should be a well-rounded individual with above-average grades and college aptitude scores, be healthy, be desirous of becoming a leader and serving the nation, be willing to work hard to achieve all goals and, of course, receive an appointment from a U.S. Senator or Representative, or possibly a service-connected source. Here are statistics from a recent class, showing the numbers that were considered and selected:

  • 13,742 candidates applied - 100%
  • 4,808 nominated/examined - 35%
  • 2,419 nominees qualified - 17%
  • 1,195 admitted - 9%

The U.S. Military Academy's mission is to educate and train the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate shall have the attributes essential to professional growth throughout a career as an officer in the regular Army, and to inspire each to a lifetime of service to the nation.

West Point's undergraduate curriculum is first-rate and uniquely tailored for those who aspire to be military professionals. Its core program is designed to give cadets a fundamental knowledge of the arts and sciences, while the elective program permits individuals to explore a field of study in which they have interest and aptitude. Together they lead to a Bachelor of Science degree. A proportionately large number of USMA graduates earn advanced degrees as well. The school ranks fourth in the nation for the number of Rhodes Scholar recipients.

The Academy is the only source of pre-commissioning undergraduate education controlled by and answerable to the Army. Almost all faculty members are Regular Army officers who hold advance degrees from civilian colleges and universities; 99% hold masters degrees or higher; 21 percent have earned doctorates. All are role models who exemplify high ideals. The student-faculty ratio is 8:1, averaging 15 cadets to a class.

Military training includes field and classroom instruction in military skills, an intensive physical education program, and practical and classroom training in leadership. During their first summer at West Point, new cadets receive intensive fundamental military training to prepare them to take their place in the Corps. The second summer of training enhances the military skills that every young officer should possess. During the third summer, training opportunities include Airborne, Air Assault, Mountain Warfare and Northern Warfare training. One may also be assigned as a company officer with a regular Army unit. During the fourth year of summer training, a cadet is assigned as a leader, training other cadets in military skills.

More than 100 different extracurricular activities are available for interests in academics, Academy support, military skills, religious participation, recreational sports and competitive athletics. Every cadet is required to take physical training courses and engage in one or more of 16 intramural and 28 intercollegiate sports.

The sports facilities are outstanding and the Academy can boast of an illustrious history in collegiate competition. Its football and lacrosse stadium is named for Cadet Dennis M. Mitchie (pronounced MY-KEE), who organized West Point's first football game — in 1890 against Navy. Three cadets have won football's Heisman Trophy. Its baseball field is named for another famous cadet, Abner Doubleday, Class of 1842, who is credited with inventing the game.

With its high standards of mental, moral and physical achievement, West Point is truly the place where a student can, as the motto says, “be all you can be.”

For additional information, contact Director of Admissions, USMA, 606 Thayer Rd., West Point, NY, 10996. [].


By Rudi Williams

Washington, Nov. 16, 2004 (American Forces Press Service) – A senior Army NCO descended from Ojibway Indians (also known as Chippewa), said he has often wondered why more Native Americans don’t join the military.

Master Sgt. Jon Connor called serving in the armed forces “an excellent opportunity to break the cycle of poverty many American Indians have come to know growing up and living on reservations.”

Although only one-quarter Ojibway and raised in a middle-class neighborhood in Antigo, Wis., Connor said the Army did help him find his niche in life.

He recalled walking into an Army recruiter's office nearly 20 years ago. He was a 26-year-old college graduate, out of work and disappointed with his prospects in the television broadcasting business in Wisconsin.

“I think what I find fascinating about the Army is that no matter what your background is, the limitations of one's success are those placed upon yourself — not the organization. Whether its education, mission-related skills, leadership, the military continuously offers this if you want it.

“I joined because I needed to get on with my life and felt I needed to do something to put my degrees to good use,” said Connor, who holds an associate degree in television production and a bachelor's degree in journalism.

His half-Indian father served in the European theater during World War II, attaining the rank of corporal and earning the Soldiers Medal. “Other family members on my dad's side served too,” he noted. Over the years, Connor found information on tombstones in cemeteries about his descendants serving in the military in the 1800s.

Connor said he supports having November's American Indian Heritage Month as “a great way to foster a better understanding and appreciation.”

“To understand American Indians, one must read about them prior to the European settlers coming to North and South America. Then the real Indian lifestyle can be found. Everything else since is simply a reaction and then later pure survival measures taken until the near genocide of the race by the late 1800s.”

Connor was one of 15 service members of Indian descent at a Sept. 23 White House breakfast honoring the opening of the American Indian Museum on Washington's National Mall.

“It was a real honor to be in the presence of Indian people from throughout the country during my visit to the White House,” he said. Connor called it “an absolute thrill” when President Bush recognized the service members and the estimated 185 attendees “turned and applauded for what seemed eternity. I never was honored by Indian people before, so it was a great, great honor.”

The senior noncommissioned officer has served as an editor, assistant editor and photojournalist stateside and overseas, including a stint as staff writer and photojournalist for the European Stars and Stripes.

Connor recently moved from the Army Chief of Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon, where he was the Army's newspaper program chief, to the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Public Affairs Office to work in media and community relations.


By Staff Sgt. Reeba Critser, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs

San Antonio, Tex., Jan. 18, 2005 (Army News Service) – More than 200 people attended the Jan. 14 opening ceremony of another Army Amputee Center - this one at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston. The first center opened in December at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, Washington, D.C.

Army leadership, members of the San Antonio community including the mayor, and many amputees attended the opening.

The center is the Army’s only Level One Trauma Center and the Defense Department’s only Burn Center, which is open to all service members and works to give the injured full function of the amputated parts.

“This makes Brooke one of only six hospitals in the nation to carry both credentials,” said Brig. Gen. C. William Fox Jr., commander of BAMC. “We are now adding to this second DOD Amputee Care Center credentials that underscore our passion for the care for wounded soldiers.”

In addition to serving the amputees, this Amputee Center will also double as a place of research focus on how it can better serve the amputees in their physical and emotional status to include counselors and social work.

“This generation of Soldiers and future generations like them know we will always be there for them with the best medical care in the world,” Fox said. “The Army Medical Department, some 77,000 strong, will never stop ensuring that the men and women we ask to go into harm’s way have the very best medical care. Should they be evacuated home, they will receive the best care possible to restore them to duty,” he added. “If we are unable to do this, we will seamlessly transition them into the hands of our magnificent Veterans Medical System.”

Fox stressed that with technological advances, the current survival rate of combat injures for Soldiers participating in operations worldwide has gone from 76 percent to 91 percent.

“These forward medical efforts are the result of the ‘train as you will perform’ medical education that is present in our many Army medical centers like Brooke and Walter Reed that ensure our military receives the most highly trained and skilled doctors, nurses and medics for deployment forward,” he said.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston pinned the Purple Heart on five Soldiers.

“Today is a humbling experience,” Cody said. “This is something I wish we didn’t have to do, but I’m honored that we’re doing it right. Today, we open the second Amputee Center as a commitment to say we’ll never leave our fallen behind.”


By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY Mar 15, 2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret)

Lt. Col. Joe Repya is on the leading edge of the baby boom. He will turn 60 tomorrow, and he is pushing himself to keep up with soldiers one-third his age in the Army's 101st Airborne Division.

“I discovered very quickly that I can't run 4 miles as fast as some of these kids,” says Repya, who was in Iraq last year and is at Fort Campbell, Ky., awaiting his return to Iraq. “As long as I can see them on the horizon as they're finishing, I'm doing pretty good. It's a tremendously good feeling to help motivate these young soldiers.”

Repya, of Eagan, Minn., isn't the only soldier showing more than a bit of gray. Of the 157,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 1,700 are older than 55, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke.

Read interesting profiles and the rest of the story HERE [ ].


By Ralph Peters, New York Times, September 24, 2006
Forwarded by BGen Brig Gen R. Clements USAF ret

When politicians get big things wrong, they still get reelected. When academics get big things wrong, they get tenure. When Special Forces officers get even the smallest thing wrong, people die.

That gives SF leaders seriousness you rarely encounter elsewhere - unless it's among others in uniform.

Once a year, I have the privilege of speaking to the SF and other special operations students at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The questions from those officers are by far the toughest - the most intelligent and earnest - I hear anywhere.

Why? The rest of us just read. Those officers do the things we read about.

Fresh from combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, or in one of the world's dark crevices, they don't argue for any party line or popular prejudice in the classroom. Their fighting's deadly, not a game of political one-upmanship. With candor and moral courage, they struggle to understand the world in which they work.

According to the media, that world's black and white. But special operators deal with reality, not cant or spin. Their world has countless shades of gray. It isn't a universe of perishable headlines, but one in which you struggle to read between an infinite number of lines.

The rest of us simplify things to get a grip on them. For these men (and women, too, in Psychological Operations and other special-ops fields), every minor complexity has to be faced. They serve and fight in environments where each gesture has nuance, where life can depend upon tone of voice, and where physical stamina is ultimately less important than strength of will.

Many will never receive public credit for the risks they've taken and the victories they've achieved to keep the rest of us safe and free. You won't always know precisely what their awards for valor represent. Their personnel files have gaps that measure operations so secret that senior officers can't access the reports. Often, their families know only that their soldier's gone, with no idea where he is and when - or if - he'll return.

Think about that. In this Internet age of instant communications, when troops in Iraq jump on-line at the end of a mission to assure the folks back home that they're OK, special operators disappear into a black hole for months.

On a military post, the other spouses might talk to their distant warrior regularly. The family of the special operator waits. And waits. Even the wives and kids have it tougher in special ops.

Each year, my feeling grows stronger that I should be listening to these soldiers, not lecturing to them. No matter how much experience we think we have of the world, it doesn't begin to rival that of special operators - or of regular soldiers and Marines, for that matter. They haven't just been to a war. They've been to wars. And each one knows he or she is going back.

The only thing you can do with officers like that is to try to help them gain a greater perspective on the ordeals they've recently left behind, to assemble their individual experiences into a coherent grasp of deeper issues, and to get at the purpose of their sacrifices in a way that goes beyond pabulum generalities.

Last week, in a classroom in a wretched building slated for demolition, we talked about Islam and its relation to other religions, about the power of culture, the reassertion of local identities and unorthodox strategies. We discussed the tactical lessons of recent wars and the life spans of civilizations.

One Major spoke cogently of the lessons he drew from interacting with Arab officers. Another stressed the criticality of education for women in breaking the chain of societal failure (and this guy was an aviator, a category of officer better known for fly-by targeting of the human female; tell Ms. Steinem we're making progress). A Navy SEAL raised the lessons medieval Europe offers for analyzing the Middle East today.

Not exactly The New Yorker's snitty view of military officers. There was no bluster or swagger, no trace of close-mindedness (for that, you have to go to a liberal arts faculty). No matter how controversial the discussion became, no one raised his or her voice.

The quality of their questions and observations was signally higher than those on any campus I've ever visited. It's the same story every year at Ft. Leavenworth. If the readers of this paper only could meet these magnificent Americans, you'd be immeasurably proud of them.

They have their concerns, of course. In off-line discussions, there was never a diminished sense of duty, but their optimism was more subdued than in previous years. Repeatedly, I encountered a sense that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's policies failed our military badly, undercutting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The officers didn't complain. They just offered sober observations on what they'd been through, what they'd seen, and what we could do better. Each one was mentally prepared to go back into the fight.

And they will go back. Their time in Kansas is a brief respite, a chance to hold their families close for a few months, to study and think. They'll soon go out again to routinely do the impossible, to track down terrorists and train potential allies, to right at least a small portion of the world's wrongs and to redeem the damage done by unscrupulous foreign leaders, hate-mongering demagogues and, yes, irresponsible politicians here at home.

The bottom line? Some of the men and women I spoke to last week are going to die.


Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of “Never Quit the Fight.”


Forwarded by Dave Benson February 14, 2006

The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment served its second deployment in Iraq for the past year. As the regiment prepared to move home, it received the following letter from Mayor of Tall ‘Afar, Ninewa, Iraq. It is a quite and interesting counterpoise to the negativism we are fed daily by the liberal U.S. media.

In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order
to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.

This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

The leaders of this Regiment; COL McMaster, COL Armstrong, LTC Hickey, LTC Gibson, and LTC Reilly embody courage, strength, vision and wisdom.

Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. The mission they have accomplished, by means of a unique military operation, stands among the finest military feats to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and truly deserves to be studied in military science. This military operation was clean, with little collateral damage, despite the ferocity of the enemy. With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all
bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. T

They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.

Mayor of Tall ‘Afar,
Ninewa, Iraq

R. Ren Hart '56, Colonel, US Army, Retired
3093 Stevenson Drive
Pebble Beach, CA 93953
831 655 1189


BY Karen Bradshaw, First Army Public Affairs staff.

Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2004 - “Train as you would fight” has long been an axiom in the Army and First Army plans to improve the training of its Soldiers to realistically reflect they are warriors first.

Lt. Gen. Russell L. Honoré, commanding general First U.S. Army, shared that training vision with leaders at the First U.S. Army Commander's Conference at Atlanta in mid-October.

“We are in a war with no rear areas or front lines,” Honoré said. “We have to instill the Warrior Ethos into the mobilized Soldiers we train. Every Soldier must be able to function as an Infantryman. Soldiers must have tough, realistic, hands-on, repetitive training until their response is intuitive.”

He aims to accomplish this with what he calls “theater immersion” training. “When Soldiers get off the bus at the mobilization station, they must feel they have arrived in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Honoré said.

Instead of living in a normal garrison environment, Soldiers will see concertina wire, entry control points, and guard towers to simulate the Forward Operating Base environment.

“In an FOB, small unit leaders not only train on theater-specific tasks,” Honoré said, “they have an opportunity to exercise their troop-leading procedures and basic discipline on a continuous basis.”

Since time is limited at the mobilization station, immediately immersing Soldiers into a replicated combat zone enables focused training 24-hours-a-day, and retraining can take place as needed.

“We can repeatedly train Soldiers on multiple tasks. For example, a single simulated mortar attack trains react to indirect fire, casualty evacuation procedures and 9-line MEDEVAC, damage assessment, counter-battery fire and many other procedures they might never get the chance to practice more than once,” said Col. Christian de Graf, 2nd Brigade commander, 87th Division (Training Support).

Theater immersion training also means training events can occur when least expected.

“In Iraq, a mortar or an IED can hit at anytime — not just during scheduled training periods. We can train the Soldiers the way they will fight and the theater immersion concept allows us to do that,” said Col. Daniel Zajac, 3rd Brigade commander, 87th Division. “The standard for how we train Soldiers comes from the theater. We are constantly adjusting our training based on current operations in theater. The theater immersion concept provides the flexibility to do that real time.”

The new training method will also allow leaders to more easily adjust
training as needed.

“Theater immersion is a dynamic training approach that gives us greater flexibility to train Soldiers. With theater immersion we can create more events, longer events, ramp up the volume or turn it down based on the training needs of Soldiers and units,” said Col. Al Jones, First U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for Operations. “Our goal is that Soldiers respond to threats intuitively, regardless of the situation in which they might find themselves.”

“We have a non-negotiable contract with the American people to prepare her sons and daughters for war,” Honoré said. “We must use imagination and innovation to do this better than we ever have before. We can not, we will not fail in this task.”


From Dr. N. Faulkner via BGen Clements. No original source given

ARLINGTON, Va. - As the winds from the September 2003 Hurricane Isabel swept over Arlington National Cemetery, park officials gave soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter.

“They told us that… but that's not what's going to happen,” said Sgt. Christopher Holmes, standing vigil on overnight duty. “That's never an option for us. It went in one ear and right out the other.”

Established in 1921, the monument began as the interment of an unknown World War I soldier. In time, unknowns from later wars also were included. The Army has posted sentries there continuously since 1930.

With the fierce storm bearing down, cemetery officials decided to let the guards move indoors if they felt they were in danger. Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler said he believed it was the first time that was ever allowed.

Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment protect the tomb, standing guard on rotating shifts 24-hours a day, assisted now by security cameras. Staff Sgt. Alfred Lanier noted, “Once you become a badge holder, it's like you'll do whatever you have to do to guard the unknowns. For one, it's my job, and for two, that's just how much respect I have for the unknowns. That's just something we cherish.”

Holmes said he was willing to risk his life keeping watch over the tomb. “It's just considered to be the greatest honor to go out there and guard. It's not only the unknowns. It's a symbol that represents everyone who's fought and died for our country.”

The cemetery is the resting place that honors more than 260,000. Twenty-one funerals were held there Thursday, and sixteen scheduled for the following day.



By Russ Vaughn

Every time I hear some liberal Democrat ranting about our not providing enough armor to protect the troops, I just shake my head and tell myself, “That idiot obviously has never humped a ruck in combat.”

Hell, most combat infantrymen in my day didn’t want to wear a steel helmet even though they knew it offered significant protection from head wounds. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to say, “Put that steel pot on, soldier! Now!”

I knew fellow NCO’s who volunteered for Special Forces just because those guys never had to wear pots, even into combat.

For an infantryman, who must carry not only the weapons, ammunition and communications gear with which to fight, but also the food, water and clothing to sustain his fighting ability for up to several days, everything has a weight to value ratio as well as a weight to mobility ratio. In Vietnam, every paratrooper in my battalion was issued a gas mask in a canvas, carrying bag.

After several months in country, I was instructed by the battalion CO to inventory all the chemical protection equipment in our unit. Guess what? While nearly all of the troops still had the carriers strapped to their legs when they went out on operations, most contained changes of socks and underwear or candy or smokes, all things which were of greater value to them than a bulky, heavy, rubber, seldom-if-ever used gas mask.

Unless the infantry has changed a great deal from my time, which this article [,13319,87152,00.html ] makes me doubt, (among the subjects interviewed are a truck driver, a graves registration marine and a military police officer) the actual ground pounders, who need to be fleet of foot when the balloon goes up, don’t want to be inordinately weighed down when the ability to move may be the most important factor in surviving a firefight.

When the shooting starts, you want to be able to jettison that rucksack or whatever else you’re carrying that isn’t essential to the immediate situation at hand. You can always come back for that gear once the shooting stops. Conversely, and by necessity, body armor must be worn all through the fighting and may in fact encumber some individuals to the point their combat skills are degraded.

If you read the comments following the article, you will see that others who have been there agree. The most astute comment is the one observing that intelligent local command discretion should be used in making the determination as to whether additional armoring up contributes to or takes away from the success of the immediate mission.

If this sort of mission-specific logic is applied to the use of body armor, I will wager that infantry units, when involved in foot operations, where they have always gone into battle with minimal protective gear, will consider that weight to value/mobility ratio and opt for less weight and more mobility. It is significant that even some of the non-infantry personnel are complaining of armor-induced constraints.

Believe me, if the troops doing the fighting really need something badly in this email- connected age, you can bet they’ll be letting their families and their politicians back home know about it.

As for the combat-deprived, reality-challenged, liberal Democrats attacking the administration over this issue at every opportunity, I would remind them there is a reason for the military designation, Light Infantry: It’s the weight, stupid!


The following is a bit dated, but highly appropriate - timeless in a sense - because it is worth keeping as a reminder. The Wall Street Journal refused to publish this letter written by Jim Nalepa. It was forwarded by MGEN Hank Sterling, USAF (Ret), and 1948 graduate of USMA, to BGen Bob Clements, USAF (Ret.), who shared it with us:

By Jim Nalepa

As a West Point graduate, I can assure that we took our military history seriously. Most graduates remember the lessons of “The History of the Military Art” others have obviously forgotten. Most Americans would not recall the significance of the date, April 9th as they watched the statue of Saddam Hussein topple in Baghdad and his Ambassador to the United Nations declare “The game is over.”

One hundred And thirty eight years ago, on April the 9th, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse, Robert E Lee, West Point Class of 1829, surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, West Point Class of 1843 to end the bloodiest war in our nation's history, the Civil War. There are significant historical lessons to be derived in contrasting Operation Iraqi Freedom and our own Civil War as well as a comparison of West Point generals in both

The motto of the United States Military Academy is “Duty, Honor, and Country.” Unfortunately, a few generals (all West Point graduates) have become “armchair analysts” for whom it seems their motto could be “Demagoguery, Hubris, and Contempt.” More specifically, I speak of General Eric Shinseki, the irrelevant Army Chief of Staff (West Point 1965); General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, former Clinton Drug Czar (West Point 1964); and General (ret.) Wesley Clark (West Point 1966), former NATO Commander and aspiring Democrat Party presidential or vice presidential nominee.

All of these men, through public pontification dammed the strategy of this war. General Shinseki called for hundreds of thousands more troops to get the job done. General McCaffrey, only four days into active general combat, wrote a contemptuous article on these pages predicting doom and a protracted conflict. General Wesley Clark joined in the anti-American chorus on CNN to question, erroneously, why supply lines had stretched so thin? Why all this wailing and teeth gnashing from men who heretofore proved themselves valiant in combat as junior officers in Viet Nam and the first Gulf War? The George McClellan syndrome fits all too well.

Gen. George B. McClellan (West Point 1846), commanded the Union Army in the early days of the Civil War. A pompous man who held Abraham Lincoln in utter contempt, built an army of well over 150,000 men and embarked on a campaign to capture Richmond and bring a swift end to the southern rebellion. To historians, this is known as the Peninsular Campaign, one of the greatest failures in the annals of American military history.

Faced by a confederate force of barely 40,000 soldiers, McClellan hesitated, begged for more troops, worried about long supply lines and basically attacked piecemeal until he deluded himself into believing that the rebels held superior numbers on the field of battle. Had McClellan, with a vastly superior force, struck decisively toward Richmond, (as we did at Baghdad), the Civil War conceivably would have been brought to a swift conclusion, saving millions of lives, both soldiers and civilians. McClellan, after being relieved of command and sent on his way, eventually became the Democrat Party nominee for President in 1864 and was soundly defeated by Lincoln.

Generals Clark, McCaffrey and Shinseki are nothing more than the heirs of the McClellan legacy, political generals, who have forgotten our motto for their own self-aggrandizement. Where were these three when their patron, Bill Clinton, decimated the U.S. Army in the 1990's, almost halving our forces for the sake of the phony “peace dividend?” This unilateral disarmament gave our enemies hope and portrayed us as both militarily and politically weak. Why weren't their voices heard as brave men (Black Hawk Down) were sacrificed in Somalia because Clinton and his Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, wouldn't authorize the use of armor forces, which the field commanders earnestly had sought? As we know now our failure in Somalia was the impetus for Bin Laden's “9-11” attack. Simple: These three were being politically correct, behaving as the military hating administration told them to, and putting on their second, third and fourth stars.

Some basic questions to each of them: General McCaffrey, how did the last “war” you fought, the war on drugs, go on your watch? General Shinseki, isn't it great to know that all you will be remembered for is giving the army black berets made in France? General Clark, will continued political correctness really get you the Democrat party nomination for President or even Vice President? If not you could succeed Chirac in France.

The conduct of these men while our troops are under fire is reprehensible and, fortunately, stands in stark contrast to General Franks, who conceived and commanded what by any measure has been a brilliant Iraqi campaign. While not a West Point graduate, General Franks is surrounded by graduates of the military academy who have loyally supported him and the Iraqi Freedom campaign from day one. Men such as LTG John Abizaid (West Point 1973) Gen. Frank's chief deputy, Col. David Perkins, Commander of the 2nd Brigade, Third Infantry Division, the first unit into Baghdad (West Point 1980); and Capt. James Adamouski (West Point 1995), killed in combat. When this great victory is finally assessed, those are the men who are the heirs of Grant, Patton and Schwarzkopf.

As to the modern McClellan's - just like the Iraqi regime, it's the dustbin of history for them.

Jim Nalepa

If you need to verify this letter, Mr. Nalepa can be reached at: He is a 1978 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. During active service he was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Third Infantry Division, in Germany and the 82nd Airborne Division. He is a veteran of the Grenada Rescue mission in 1983. Mr. Nalepa, who runs an exclusive Executive Search firm, is a frequent guest on military and foreign affairs in the Chicago area, with many appearances on the highly rated WTTW program “Chicago Tonight” Entitled Health Care for All Military Retirees.


Forwarded by Captain Jack MacKercher, U.S. Navy (Ret).

This report is from a retired Air Force general who attended this conference, although his name is not attached. The retired admiral who forwarded it to MacKercher is a long-time friend and former classmate of the general, and personally vouches for the integrity and factual representation:

Earlier this week I attended a retired general and flag officer conference at Fort Carson, hosted by MGen Bob Mixon, the 7th Infantry Division Commander, which calls the Fort its home.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ft. Carson, it is a huge installation located to the south of Colorado Springs; it's in the process of becoming one of the larger Army installations in the country (26,000 soldiers); and it is the test location for the new “modular brigade” concept that will reflect the Army of tomorrow by 2008.

It is also the home post of the largest number of troopers who have served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and, regrettably, the largest number of troopers who have died in combat there over the past three years. There are Ft. Carson units going to and returning from the combat area virtually on a monthly basis.

The conference was primarily organized to explain the modular brigade concept, and it featured a panel of officers who had either very recently returned from commands in the combat zone or were about to deploy there in the next two months. Three of the recent returnees were Colonel H.R. McMaster, Colonel Rick S., and Captain Walter Szpak.

McMaster is the commander of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, the unit that, through very innovative and population-friendly tactics, rid the city of Tal Afar of insurgents. The mayor of Tal Afar came back to Carson two weeks ago to thank the troopers and their families personally for “freeing his people”. (You say you didn't hear about that in the mainstream media?)

McMaster is considered the foremost U.S. Expert on modern insurgent warfare, has written a book on the subject which is widely circulated at the war colleges and staff colleges, and he was asked to testify before Congress when he returned from the 3rd ACR combat deployment. He is obviously one of the great combat leaders that has emerged from the war and is highly respected (some would say revered) by his troopers and his superiors alike.

Colonel S. Is assigned to the 10th Special Forces Brigade and he headed up all of the 31 Special Forces A-teams that are integrated with the populace and the Iraqi Army and national police throughout the country. Many of these are the guys that you see occasionally on the news that have beards, dress in native regalia, usually speak Arabic and don't like to have their identities revealed for fear of retribution on their families (thus the Colonel S.)

Captain Szpak was the head of all the Army explosive ordnance teams in Iraq. He and his troops had the job of disarming all the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive formed projectiles (EFPs) that were discovered before they were detonated. They also traveled around the country training the combat forces in recognizing and avoiding these devices in time to prevent death and injury. IEDs and EFPs are responsible for the vast majority of casualties experienced by our forces.

Despite the objective of the conference (I.e., the modular brigade concept), it quickly devolved into a 3½ hour question and answer period between the panel and the 54 retired generals and admirals who attended. I wish I had a video of the whole session to share with you because the insights were especially eye opening and encouraging. I'll try to summarize the high points as best I can.

All returnees agreed that “we are clearly winning the fight against the insurgents but we are losing the public relations battle both in the war zone and in the States.” (I'll go into more detail on each topic.)

All agreed that it will be necessary for us to have forces in Iraq for at least ten more years, though by no means in the numbers that are there now. They opined that 80% to 90% of the Iraqi people want to have us there and do not want us to leave before “the
job is done”.

The morale and combat capability of the troops is the highest that the senior officers have ever seen in the 20-30 years that each has served.

The Iraqi armed forces and police are probably better trained right now than they were under Saddam, but our standards are much higher and they lack officer leadership.

They don't need more troops in the combat zone but they need considerably more Arab linguists and civil affairs experts.

The IEDs and EFPs continue to be the principal problem that they face and they are becoming more sophisticated as time passes.

Public Affairs: We are losing the public affairs battle for a variety of reasons.

First, in Iraq, the terrorists provide Al Jazeera with footage of their more spectacular attacks and they are on TV to the whole Arab world within minutes of the event. By contrast, it takes four to six days for a story generated by Army Public Affairs to gain clearance by Combined Forces Command, two or three more days to get Pentagon clearance, and after all that, the public media may or may not run the story.

Second, the U.S. mainstream media (MSM) who send reporters to the combat zone do not like to have their people embedded with our troops. They claim that the reporters get “less objective” when they live with the soldiers and marines - they come to see the world through the eyes of the troops. As a consequence, a majority of the reporters stay in hotels in the “Green Zone” and send out native stringers to call in stories to them by cell phone, which they later write up and file. No effort is made to verify any of these stories or the credibility of the stringers. The recent serious injuries to Bob Woodruff of ABC and Kimberly Dozier of CBS make the likelihood of the use of local stringers even higher.

Third, the stories that are filed by reporters in the field very seldom reach the American public as written. An anecdote from Col. McMaster illustrates this dramatically.

TIME magazine recently sent a reporter to spend six weeks with the 3rd ACR as they were in the battle of Tal Afar. When the battle was over, the reporter filed his story and also included close to 100 pictures that the accompanying photographer took. TIME published a cover story on the battle a week later, allegedly using the story sent in by their reporter. When the issue came out, the guts had been edited out of their reporter's story and none of the pictures he submitted were used. Instead they showed a weeping child on the cover, taken from stock photos.

When the reporter questioned why his story was eviscerated, his editors in New York responded that the story and pictures were “too heroic”. McMaster had read both and told me that the editors had completely changed the thrust and context of the material their reporter had submitted.

(Editor‘s Note: Jack MacKercher, who forwarded this story, was a Navy PAO in Vietnam and commented, “the Time anecdote was repeated hundreds of times in the Vietnam War.”)

As a sidebar on the public affairs situation, Colonel Bob McRee, who was also on the panel and is bringing a Military Police Battalion to Iraq next month, invited the Colorado Springs Gazette to send a reporter with the battalion for six weeks to two months. He assured the Gazette, in writing one month ago, that he would provide full time bodyguards for the reporter, taking the manpower out of his own hide. The Gazette has yet to respond to his offer.

Ten More Years: The idea that we will have troops in Iraq for ten more years sounds rather grim, even though by contrast, President Clinton sent troops to Bosnia and Kosovo nearly ten years ago, and they're still there with no end in sight. While Iraq is clearly a different situation right now, the panelists believe that within a few years at the most, it will become very much the same - a peace keeping, nation building function among factions that have hated one another for centuries. There was factionalism and bitter fighting in the Balkans before NATO intervened and with peace keepers, the panelists believe that Iraq will be a parallel situation. This, by the way, is why they all believe that linguists and civil affairs military personnel are so necessary for the future.

Colonel S. went out on a limb by suggesting that if most of the troops in Iraq were deployed home “tomorrow” he could have the entire country “pacified” and the terrorist situation brought under control with just one brigade of Special Forces. Since these guys are linguists, civil affairs experts, among many other skills and talents, he may not be too far wrong.

Iraqi Attitudes: The panelists agreed that the public affairs problem manifests itself most significantly in the American public belief that the people of Iraq want us out of their country which we are occupying.

They have served in different parts of the country but each agreed that we are wanted and needed there. I refer you to the anecdote from Col. McMaster and the thousands of pictures available on the internet of the U.S. forces shown in very cordial relations with the locals. Of course, our media's obsession with Abu Graib and, if the initial reports regarding the small group of Marines at Haditha prove to be true, then those attitudes will change somewhat. But as one of the panelists pointed out, the atrocities suffered under Saddam were much worse and much more common.

Morale and Capabilities: Two weeks ago, the local TV channels showed a 3rd ACR reenlistment ceremony held at Ft. Carson and officiated by Colonel McMaster. Mind you, this unit has just returned from a one-year combat tour of hard and bloody fighting in Iraq and will likely return there again in eight to ten months. Of the 670 soldiers eligible for reenlistment, 654 of them held up their right hands and signed on for another four years. Incredible!

“If you Ain't Cav, you ain't S____!”

The Army goal for re-enlistments for fiscal year 2006 was for 40,000 soldiers to extend their active duty commitments. With four months remaining in the fiscal year, they have already exceeded their goal of 40,000 and may have to go back to Congress for authorization to exceed their force structure manning limitations. Since Congress has been pontificating for the past couple of years that the Army is woefully under strength, that should not pose any difficulty.

Iraqi Forces: Every one of the returning commanders had experience in joint operations with the Iraqi soldiers - and in the case of some of them, with the local and national police. They all are supportive of the quality of the forces, but culturally, they believe that we may be expecting too much from them as a pre-condition for handing over greater responsibility for area control. McMaster said that he worked with the army and the police at Tal Afar and was not the least bit reluctant to assign major responsibilities to them in the operations that were conducted.

Col. S.'s Green Berets, on the other hand, caught a national police lieutenant who was directing the emplacement of an IED by cell phone in order to disrupt a convoy - immediately after the lieutenant had been briefed on the convoy's route. The good news in this situation was that they were able to reroute the convoy, safely, and track the lieutenant's entire network through the use of the speed dial on his phone. Having terrorist infiltrators in both the army and the police force remains a problem. But by no means does that detract from the courage and determination of those who are loyal to the new Iraq.

Explosive Devices: The combined command in Iraq is becoming increasingly effective in countering the significant threat posed by the IEDs and EFPs. Frequency of attacks has decreased in large part through training to recognize the threat, the new technology (UAVs - unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, for example) which help to discover where the devices are emplaced, the infiltration of some of the terrorist cells, etc.

However, the technology being used by the terrorists is also improving measurably. In the past six weeks, two bomb making sites were found, raided and the bad guys arrested. In both cases, the head bomb makers were master's degree graduates (one in chemistry and one in physics) from American universities. That's a lot of brain power to bring into the fight, but we also have some pretty talented people in the military, industry and academia who are doing their best to even the odds.

Conclusion: This is more than I had intended to write on the subject - so what's new a lot of you might say - but it is a subject that doesn't get the proper balance from other sources, in my judgment at least.

I trust the information that we received far more than anything that I have heard or seen in our usual news sources. The most disturbing thing that I heard was that our MSM is changing the stories filed by their own people on the scene because they sound “too heroic”.

The over riding opinion that I came away from the conference with is that we have incredibly talented and professional leaders who are facing up to the challenges and are making inexorable progress toward the goals of our nation. We're fortunate to have courageous and valorous people on the combat front, even though there seems to be a serious dearth of these same types of people in Congress and the mainstream media.


By Susan Hagan, U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD, June 8, 2006. (Army News Service) – The U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center recently received feedback from a wounded warrior on how soldiers use and adapt their equipment in the field.

First Lt. Brennan Speakes, a platoon leader with A Troop, 1-71 Cavalry, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), visited the Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) On May 24, to share his wartime experience with testers. He was wounded in Iraq when his M1114 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) rolled over.

While touring the Automotive Command Center, where vehicles are equipped before testing, Speakes offered insight on the types of things soldiers do to their vehicles in Iraq, such as replacing parts and tightening loose bolts.

“That’s the sort of thing that we don’t necessarily find out about,” said John Wallace, ATC’s Technical Director. “Input from soldiers such as 1st Lt. Speakes gives our engineers a glimpse of how the vehicles we are testing are repaired and maintained in Iraq. Such input allows ATC to more effectively test vehicles and offer suggestions to program managers on ways to improve vehicles. Our goal is to make sure everything we test is safe, effective and reliable.”

Speakes also watched test shots on an armor-equipped HMMWV. ATC has tested nearly 430 armor kits since the beginning of the war in Iraq. “Everything I can think of that I’m interested in, you test here,” Speakes commented. “This has been a great opportunity.’

Some of ATC’s most notable achievements include testing the Army’s newest Stryker vehicle, and designing, fabricating and testing slat armor - the cage-like apparatus bolted to the Stryker to protect the vehicle from rocket propelled grenades.

ATC also tests armor kits for HMMWVs and other vehicles to provide troops with better protection from improvised explosive devices and other threats.