Thursday, July 28, 2005

Picture of the Week

Here's one of my photos that I took over in the sand box...

I took it at about the 5 hour mark during a CM2RI (Counter Mortar MANPAD Rocket Interdiction) mission...yes that's a sunrise...YAWN!



Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm A Mercenary

Apparently I'm a mercenary. What a shock...first of all where the hell is all of my money?

New York Times
July 25, 2005

The Best Army We Can Buy

By David M. Kennedy

The United States now has a mercenary army. To be sure, our soldiers are hired from within the citizenry, unlike the hated Hessians whom George III recruited to fight against the American Revolutionaries. But like those Hessians, today's volunteers sign up for some mighty dangerous work largely for wages and benefits - a compensation package that may not always be commensurate with the dangers in store, as current recruiting problems testify....

Some will find it offensive to call today's armed forces a "mercenary army," but our troops are emphatically not the kind of citizen-soldiers that we fielded two generations ago - drawn from all ranks of society without respect to background or privilege or education, and mobilized on such a scale that civilian society's deep and durable consent to the resort to arms was absolutely necessary.

David M. Kennedy, a professor of history at Stanford and the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945," is working on a book about the American national character.

Where to start with this tripe? If Mr. Kennedy's gripe is that not enough of all the segments of American society are represented within the military I would say to him, "encourage all the left leaning, all the rich kids (I know he must come into contact with them...after all he's at Stanford) everyone he believes to be under-represented in todays military to join." That's right go out and join.

It's a volunteer military, encourage everyone of every socio-economic background to join Mr. Kennedy...but we all know that isn't his problem.

He's against the war in Iraq and maybe even the GWOT and he's using this argument (our mercenary army) to try and start a movement to enact a draft which he feels if enacted will effectively eliminate our ability to wage "unjust" wars across the globe. I can't prove any of this of I may be full of it. But I'd bet a good deal of cash that I'm right.

I don't know his background, but I doubt he has served a day in his opinions and observations of the military and the motivations of people in it mean squat to me.

A lot of people may join the Army for benefits or college money or to learn a trade. But let's be clear no one gets rich in the Army...even with bonuses. No one stays for any length of time in the military for monetary reasons. Calling us mercenaries shows a basic miss-understanding of what it is that drives the career soldier. Yes there are soldiers that are disappointed with the way things turn out and they get out. Yes, there are soldiers that somehow missed the point of the bayonet course and hand to hand combat in basic training and were shocked when the Army actually asked them to go to combat. I would never be able to explain soldiers and the Army to someone like David Kennedy because he doesn't want to know the truth. He has his opinions and the facts just get in the way.

It sad that he will never know the kind of people I have been privileged to serve with. People who swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic. Soldiers who have given the last full measure of devotion to be called a mercenary by some college professor in California...thanks for your support Mr. Kennedy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Coke Fiend Bin Laden

Don't do us any favors Osama...

New York Post
July 26, 2005

Coke Fiend Bin Laden

By Dan Mangan

Osama bin Laden tried to buy a massive amount of cocaine, spike it with poison and sell it in the United States, hoping to kill thousands of Americans one year after the 9/11 attacks, The Post has learned.

The evil plot failed when the Colombian drug lords bin Laden approached decided it would be bad for their business - and, possibly, for their own health, according to law-enforcement sources familiar with the Drug Enforcement Administration's probe of the aborted transaction. The feds were told of the scheme earlier this year, but its existence had never been made public. The Post has reviewed a document detailing the DEA's findings in the matter, in addition to interviewing sources familiar with the case.

Sources said the feds were told that bin Laden personally met with leaders of a Colombian drug cartel to in 2002 to negotiate the purchase of tons of cocaine, saying that he was willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to finance the deal.

It was not clear where the meeting took place.

Bin Laden hoped that large numbers of Americans dying from poisoned coke would lead to widespread terror.

"They wanted to kill thousands or people — more than the World Trade Center," said a source.

Although the drug lords would have reaped millions of dollars in profits by selling the cocaine to bin Laden, they knew that if his plan succeeded it might effectively destroy the market for their coke in America for years, sources said.

But that was only one reason they declined bin Laden's offer.

The other was their fear of retaliation from the U.S. government once its citizens started to die from the drugs, according to sources.

Despite bin Laden's plan being thwarted, the DEA believes that al Qaeda continues to this day to traffic in drugs to fund a variety of its operations — including training, traveling and terror attacks.

In 2002, then-DEA Director Asa Hutchinson said, "The DEA [has] received multi-source information that Osama bin Laden himself has been involved in the financing and facilitation of heroin-trafficking activities."

"It is important we recognize that when money goes from the pocket of an American to buy drugs, it may contribute to the financing of unspeakable crimes of violence around the world," Hutchinson told Congress that year when he detailed the narcotics trade connection to al Qaeda and other terror groups.

In April of this year, Afghan tribal leader Hajji Bashir Noorzai, who was one of the most wanted drug dealers in the world and previously had been identified as bin Laden's major heroin supplier, was busted in New York City on federal criminal charges.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Astros Score Off The Field

This is cool because, for one I have been a lifelong Astros fan and It's great when anyone does somthing for those guys in the hospital.

Houston Chronicle
July 23, 2005

Astros Score Off The Field While Visiting Injured Troops

By Samantha Levine

WASHINGTON - The Houston Astros won their game against the Washington Nationals on Friday night, but earlier that morning they scored in an even bigger way.

Several players, along with owner Drayton McLane and a half-dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation, lit up the faces of seriously wounded soldiers when they visited and hosted a barbecue at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"These are the heroes, these are the guys I feel privileged to meet," relief pitcher Brad Lidge said. "They were so optimistic about everything. You don't feel sorry for them at all because they won't let you."

The visit, during the Astros' four-game series against the Nationals this weekend, was McLane's idea. Reporters were not permitted to attend.

McLane sounded like a proud papa as he described the sight of his athletes eating hot dogs and hamburgers with soldiers their own age who are learning how to get by without arms and legs, or the lives they knew before the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"At first, they were apprehensive because these are soldiers who are badly injured," said McLane, who, visiting on his birthday, shared a surprise cake with a young soldier who lost most of one leg and all of the other. "But when they got here, they just lit up. It lifted my heart."

The Astros also hosted several soldiers from Walter Reed at each game and will visit the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Anyone who meets the soldiers comes away feeling humbled and inspired, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, who was with the Astros and frequently stops by the medical center on his own.

"These young people's frame of mind could teach a lot of us," he said. "We get frustrated if traffic is not moving or if we can't find a parking place. These people have lost one limb, or three, and they have to deal with it."

Green said he plans to talk to McLane and other Major League Baseball officials to encourage all teams to visit wounded troops when they come to Washington for a game.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, helped McLane set up the visit and agreed other teams should follow suit.

"It would make all the difference in the world to these soldiers if professional athletes would visit them," he said.

Lidge won't soon forget the troops' positive outlook and undeniable grit.

"We complain about playing in hot weather or something, and then you realize how silly it is when you consider these guys in 130-degree heat and dodging bullets," he said. "These guys are mentally strong like you wouldn't believe. It puts it all in perspective for me."

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Where For Art Thou Juliet...and Kiran?

This is a true story

On my last day in Iraq, and my first day in Kuwait I saw a vision. While this vision didn't make me question my course in life or take up the priesthood it did remind me of how good we have it...and that's always a good thing.

The day began as we packed up what remained of the things we hadn't already shipped out or sold off to the new guys. The challenge remained of how we were going to stuff 10 pounds of crap (our remaining gear) into a 5 pound bag (our aircraft). Somehow most of us found a way to wedge all remaining baggage (how did I get all this stuff anyway?) into every nook and cranny. If we had an accident on the way back I'm sure the accident board would have had a field day trying to figure out where all of this stuff came from.

We took off on time and said goodbye to everyone by flying low past all the trailers on the way out. It being 0730, I'm sure some of the late risers had some choice words for us. But I could care less, I'm going home!

As we neared the border of Iraq and Kuwait we spotted camels. Everyone thinks they are all over the place over here but that was the second or third time I'd seen some in a year.

Our arrival in Kuwait was rather anticlimactic, as we landed shut down and began to unload our stuff and look for the warehouse we would grow to hate over the next 10 days.

After finding a cot and setting up shop with 100 of our new closest friends it was dinner time, so after waiting for retreat to sound we headed off to the chow hall.

At the dining facility there is a hand washing station outside the door that EVERYONE must go through before being allowed to enter the building. There is even a soldier standing there to ensure compliance with the hand washing policy. Never mind that my headgear and flight suit are so nasty that as soon as my hand come into contact with them after I have washed my hands I have undone whatever good I just did by washing my hands, we feel good because we have done SOMETHING to combat the filth that permeates this place.

While the building and surroundings of this facility are top notch the chow isn't that much if any better than it was back in Iraq. That might explain the long lines at KFC and Hardees over at the PX. But what the hell, it's free and we are definitely getting our monies worth.

The walls of the DF were lined with TVs most of the time, at least when I was there they were either tuned to the news or sports channels. While we were in Iraq they had the same thing in our chow hall but it always seemed to have something on I didn't really care I didn't watch too much. As I sat down with my roast beast and who hash and glanced up at the screen nearest me to see what was on. That is when I saw my vision.

Now don't get me wrong, I had seen Juliet Huddy of Fox News before. Before Iraq, before Korea I used to watch Fox and Friends Weekend edition while I did laundry or the other chores that were always put off till the weekend. Back then I thought she was cute and entertaining, but she didn't have the impact that seeing here on that screen had for me now. We couldn't hear a word she was saying, didn't know what story she was talking about, but that was OK with me. I just sat there and looked at her for a couple of minutes till my table mate asked me what the hell I was looking at.

"I'm looking at Juliet Huddy damnit."

He turns around and looks. "Yeah, she's pretty nice."

Another guy chimes in. "But she nothing compared to the news chick."

"The news chick...who's that?"

"I don't know her name, but she's hot."

Someone else said, "I think her name's Karen something."

Just then she appeared on the screen.

"It says there her name is Kiran Chetry."


"She's a babe!"

"She's a robo babe."

"If she were President she would be Baberaham Lincoln." (it is an established fact that if more than three soldiers are present and a non work related conversation takes place someone in the course of said conversation will quote a movie)

An hour or so later and after many hateful looks from the people around us a dirty band of Warrant Officers took our trays to the return area said goodbye to Juliet and Kiran and headed for our little warehouse in the sun.

I've thought about what I saw on that screen and what it was that attracted me so much. Yeah, they were cute but it wasn't the sex...we saw pictures of hot girls in AFFES porn and DVD's. I think it was the fact that we were finally headed home and they remind me of all that I had missed in the last two years. They looked so All American and girl next door. God Bless America...I'm going home!

Four months later I still remember that feeling...I'll never forget it, and while I know they weren't doing anything special or different that day I want to thank them for being who they are...American Women.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Marine Who 'Wouldn't Quit Fighting'

Los Angeles Times
July 22, 2005

Marine Who 'Wouldn't Quit Fighting' Is Honored

Aaron Austin died in Fallouja repelling an attack. His Silver Star will go to his parents.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

On the last night of his life, Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin joined a prayer session with other Marines hunkered down in a bullet-riddled neighborhood in Fallouja, Iraq.

Austin, a 21-year-old machine-gunner, asked God for protection not for himself but for his fellow Marines of Echo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton.

The next morning, insurgents attacked from three directions, firing thousands of rounds from AK-47s and other firearms and hurling dozens of grenades.

With the Marines in danger of being overrun, Austin exposed himself to enemy fire in order to throw a grenade at their position 20 meters away. The grenade helped repel the attack, but Austin was mortally wounded.

For those who knew Austin, his action was no surprise. Today, in a simple ceremony at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial in Amarillo, Austin's parents will receive the Silver Star, awarded posthumously to their son.

Sgt. Maj. William Skiles, who was with Austin that brutal morning in Fallouja, will present the award — the nation's third-highest medal for bravery in combat.

"All the Marines stepped up, and Aaron led the way," Skiles said.

Austin's mother, De'on Miller, said she understood her son's actions during the firefight on April 26, 2004. Loyalty, she said, was at the core of her son's personality.

"He loved the people he was with," Miller said from her home in Lovington, N.M. "That was Aaron: When he was loyal, he put his entire heart into it. He wouldn't quit fighting."

Austin's Silver Star is the third for a Marine from the "Two-One," one of the units that led last year's assault on the insurgent stronghold.

Lt. Ben Wagner remembered the prayer session the night before Austin was killed. "Aaron was praying for the safety of the other Marines," he said. "That was his personality, concerned with others, not himself."

The Marines were searching buildings in the war-torn Jolan neighborhood when they came under attack in one of the bloodiest clashes between the U.S. military and insurgents that spring.

Austin helped evacuate the wounded and led other Marines onto a roof to operate a machine gun. When the insurgents kept advancing, he took a grenade from his vest and moved into the open for a better throwing position.

"Several enemy bullets struck Lance Cpl. Austin in the chest," said the official Marine Corps account. "Undaunted by his injury and with heroic effort, he threw his hand grenade at the enemy on the adjacent rooftop."

The grenade hit the bull's-eye and forced the insurgents to halt their attack.

When the battle was over, Marines erected a makeshift memorial to Austin in one of the buildings they had fought to defend.

Austin joined the Marines after graduating from high school, which had been marked by his love of parties and football (although he quit the team in solidarity when his cousin had a run-in with the coach).

His parents supported the decision, deciding the Marines would give him discipline and direction.

When he would call home from Iraq — where he was also part of the 2003 assault that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime — Austin avoided talking about combat and the chances of death. But his voice had a tone of foreboding, his parents said.

"All I ever wanted was for Aaron to come back. That's all I wanted," said his father, Doug, who owns a small grocery store.

Aaron Austin was buried near his father's Amarillo home.

Among fellow Marines, Austin was known for his laugh and his confidence.

"There's no place I'd rather be than here with my Marines," Austin told the Los Angeles Times two days before the firefight. "I'll always remember this time."

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded the 1st Marine Division during the spring 2004 offensive, said this week that Austin "represented the very best of us."

"They don't write the foreign policy," Mattis said of Austin and other Marines, "but they faithfully serve our country, even at their peril."



Handing Over The Mic

This is somthing a lot of folks already know...but it's nice to see this anyway.

National Review Online
July 21, 2005

Handing Over The Mic

Troops talk from Iraq.

By Michael Graham

I just spent a week in Iraq and Kuwait cultivating a skill that I, as a talk-show host, have found nearly impossible to master: shutting up.

Turns out, it was easier than I thought, at least in Iraq. When you're listening to a 20-year-old kid from Indiana tell how he earned his second Purple Heart, speechlessness is the natural reaction.

I was there as part of the much-maligned "Truth Tour" organized by Move America Forward, a conservative group based in California. According to reports in the mainstream media, I was part of a "propaganda" junket paid for by the Pentagon to buy some desperately needed positive coverage of the unwinnable military quagmire. All I can say is: If this was a junket, it was the worst-run junket in the history of public relations.

My radio station and I had to pay all my expenses, I slept on a bare cot in a tent in the desert, and at some locations the only available "food" (and I use that term under protest) were MREs — which stands for "Meals Ready to Eat...assuming you've already eaten both shoes and most of your undergarments."

This alleged "junket" failed in another way, too. The Pentagon didn't control what went out over the airwaves. Then again, neither did I. I left it all up to the soldiers.

I traveled about Iraq from Camp Victory at the Baghdad International Airport to Camp Prosperity on the very edge of the Red Zone, then down the Baghdad Highway to Camp Falcon, and on to the Command Headquarters in the heart of the city and, eventually, to the deserts of Kuwait and Camp Arifjan. And everywhere I went, I flipped on my mic, sat back, and let the troops tell their story.

These soldiers weren't stooges from Public Affairs or handpicked flag wavers foist on me by media handlers. I found some in the mess hall, others working security checkpoints; others sought me out because they have family living in the D.C. area where my radio show is broadcast. The least fortunate were the soldiers in Humvees stuck with "tourist duty," four friendly but serious young men who got stuck with a couple of bonehead radio hosts riding along on patrol.

In all, I spoke to more than 100 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, with different ranks and different duties at their FOBs (forward operating base), and yet they overwhelmingly had the same things to say about the war in Iraq:

"We believe in the mission."

"We're making progress."

"The Iraqis are making progress, too."

And, perhaps most important of all: "We're going to win."

I expected to hear this sort of positive assessment from General George Casey, commander of operations in Iraq, when I interviewed him at his headquarters deep inside the International Zone. When he pointed out that, one year ago, there was just one standing battalion in the Iraqi army, but there are 107 battalions today, he was doing his job of supporting the war. And I expected it from Lt. General Steve Whitcomb, commanding general of the 3rd Army, as he talked about successfully moving more than one million gallons of fuel across Iraq every day, despite the best efforts of the insurgents.

Generals are supposed to be gung ho. It comes with the pay grade.

But I heard the same, positive assessments from 23-year-old sergeants from New Iberia, La., and from PFCs from Wisconsin and Alabama. I heard it from Lieutenant Li, whose Humvee had been hit by IEDs so many times he'd lost count. I heard it from Airman Truong, who was born in Vietnam and had recently returned to his native country to marry. Two weeks after "I do," Airman Truong was headed back to Kuwait to do his duty for his adopted country.

Again and again, from "white-collar" soldiers working in the relative safety of Camp Victory at the Baghdad airport to the "real" soldiers patrolling Route Irish (a.k.a the "Highway of Death"), I heard that America and their Iraqi-army allies are winning the war against the insurgents. I was told again and again by the soldiers themselves that their (our) cause is just, the strategy is working, and the enemy they fight represents evil itself.

In other words, I heard things seldom heard on CBS or read in the pages of the New York Times.

It was only a week, and I have my obvious Bush-supporting, troop-cheering biases, but how much closer can a reporter get to delivering unspun, bias-free objective reporting than live-mic broadcasting instantly back to the states? No edits or filters or editorial meetings. Just the young men in the hot desert telling what they've seen, what they've heard, and what they now believe based on those experiences.

Isn't it at least significant that not one in 100 thought invading Iraq was a mistake? Was it mere coincidence that a random selection of 100 soldiers all believe their mission is worthwhile? Should we detect the hand of the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy in the fact that the vast majority of the troops find the media coverage of the war ignorant, harmful, or both?

I'm proud to say that, for a week, the soldiers had their say. If I were the editor of a major daily newspaper or a national network, I would be concerned that what they said is so contrary to what I am printing or broadcasting.

But the mainstream media don't need to hear from the soldiers. They already know that the war was a terrible mistake, that the world would be safer if we'd left Saddam in power, and that there is no chance for victory in Iraq.

Me, I'm not so smart. I like to let the guys on the ground tell their story. I believe it is completely possible that they know something that I — and the New York Times editorial page — do not.

Radio-talk host Michael Graham covers southern politics from his home in Virginia. He is an NRO contributor.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

James Rosen...Comedian?!?

The following is an article that Fox News, White House Reporter, James Rosen wrote about Crawford and Waco Texas. It appeared in the American Spectator.

Why do I care? Well, for one, I grew up in Waco. While it may come as a shock to anyone I grew up with that I am defending the honor of a city that I once said should have signs at the city limits warning motorists that instead of the speed limit on the interstate being reduced 10 miles an hour they were going back in time 10 years.

Waco is a city that while it has over 100 thousand citizens it sometimes feels and acts like a much smaller place. Sometimes that isn't such a bad thing. When I was 18 I didn't feel that way but a couple of wars and world travel has broadened my perspective.

I might also be defending it because Waco is where my grandparents and my parents are buried, where I went to school, played ball and a 100 other things you do growing up. I may not have loved it then...but I'll be damned if a guy from "back east" comes down here and tries to rip on us.

I guess what asses me up the most about this is the fact that James Rosen has decided to make fun of the very people whom I know without a doubt were open and sharing and as nice as anyone could be.

Of course Waco Texas doesn't have the variety of things to do as the DC area...thanks for pointing that out Master Of The Obvious (MOTO). As for the lady who moved to Crawford from Waco and was afraid that her kids would be made fun of...think about it smart guy. They moved from a city of over a hundred thousand to a city of 600 don't you think the lifestyle might be a little different?

Yeah that took a good deal of talent for the suave reporter from back east to make fun of the yokels that he is forced to live around when reporting on the President.

And as for the heat you were whining about James...why don't you strap on some body armor and go for a ride down Route Tampa sometime. I think your perspective on heat and Waco might be changed after you return...or if you return, smart ass.

One more thing, he couldn't even find the good restraunts...if you are ever in Waco try Vetek's Grocery off of I-35 near Baylor, Uncle Dan's Rib house on Valley Mills Drive and Lake Air (both for BBQ), Papa Rollo's Pizza on Valley Mills Drive South of New Road and George's near Baylor (ask for a big O...and not it's not what you think, I am after all talking about Waco)

James, don't let the door hit ya' where the good Lord split ya'.

Covering Crawford
Near the President's ranch, so far away.

by James Rosen

SHAKING HANDS at the Christmas party for the White House press corps a few
years back, President Bush smiled and asked a reporter: "You coming to
Crawford with me for Christmas?" His head was cocked at an imploring
angle, as if to say I'm count'n on ya! but his eyes gleamed with that
familiar tinge of impish mischief, so the reporter figured he could afford
a little glibness. "No," he said, "I managed to escape that duty this
year." The president's face turned serious, almost wounded: Whaddaya mean,

It was a reminder there are people who actually like Crawford, Texas (pop.
631), people who go there not because smirking assignment editors force
them, but because they are entranced by the swarming crickets and
brick-in-the-face humidity, the sight, for miles and miles, of nothing in
particular, or the pulse-quickening electricity of the tchotchke shacks on
the town's one dusty commercial street, which looks like the crumbling
Western movie sets seen on the Spahn Ranch (last known home of the Manson
family), or that one episode of The Brady Bunch where the Bradys visit

The town consists of a single intersection, book-ended by the Yellow Rose
-- a post-Dubya addition that peddles essential Texarcana like ten-gallon
hats, chaps, and authentic rawhide whips -- and the Coffee Station, a
surprisingly serviceable eatery that enjoys a virtual monopoly on in-town
dining despite doubling as a gas station. President Bush customarily drops
by the Coffee Station every New Year's Day, usually dragging by the elbow
some outwardly smiling but inwardly repulsed sophisticado like Colin
Powell or John Snow.

Working conditions in Crawford are harsh, as severe as the sun on a
steer's back on the Fourth of July. The gymnasium in the Crawford Middle
School is home of the beloved Pirates. But in holiday season it serves for
an irascible rabble of mostly pot-bellied snots from Washington, D.C. as
the "filing center" from which reporters send stories and do live shots
for TV news. On a hot day, when it's literally 104 in the shade, the TV
correspondents despair of making the three-minute walk from the school to
the camera tents, where the cameramen spend the 58-minute intervals holed
up in SUVs, the motor idling and the air conditioning blasting away,
watching on portable DVD players the kind of leering adolescent fare their
wives wouldn't let them watch at home (Mean Girls, Bring It On, etc.).

Since the school is located eight miles from the Bushes' Prairie Chapel
Ranch, the correspondents stand in front of a private farm featuring a
rickety tractor and some authentic bales of hay. The man who owns it is
only seen fleetingly, and shows, thankfully, no desire at all to get
himself or his family on television. The network anchors, blessed with
enviable cheekbones and the luxury of never leaving their companies'
temperature-controlled headquarters in New York or Atlanta, have been
tossing back and forth with the same correspondents for years now, but
still can't seem to grasp the small, simple fact that the correspondents
are not actually standing in front of the president's ranch ("outside the
Western White House!"). They just say, "All right, thanks," when the
correspondents toss back with the same muttered, but audible, tag line:
"Reporting live from Crawford, Texas, near the president's ranch…"

A strange form of dementia, a mad desire to do harm to oneself or one's
producer, has been known to overcome some of the TV correspondents after
relatively short stints in Crawford. The malady is borne of the fact that
in holiday season there is no actual news, and the President himself, the
McGuffin around which the media's Hitchcockian intrigues revolve, has not
been seen for four or five days; and yet the beleaguered correspondent
finds himself rising at 5 a.m. local time, every day, to do repetitive
90-second live shots, every hour on the hour, for 12 hours in a row, using
the same fakokta footage, from four or five days earlier, of Mr. Bush
bounding down the steps of Air Force One -- holding a dog.

IN THE YEARS SINCE GEORGE W. BUSH WON election in 2000, a few Crawfordians
have sought to exploit the town's newfound fame for financial profit. "No,
I'm doing this full-time now," said Val, a cheerful TV news groupie and
former caterer who thrust forward the lapel of her jean jacket, the better
to show off the shiny pins she was now merchandizing, which sported such
inspired texts as "W.," "Bush-Cheney 2004," "Crawford: Home of President
Bush," and so on. The whole Online Thing kind of spoils it, but anyone who
ever needs a hat, watch, plate, broach, magnet, mouse pad, bumper-sticker,
beer mug, or other inanimate object with the image or name of President
Bush on it simply must come!

Crawford has no hotels; the only place to stay is the Bush ranch, where
whatever vacancies exist have not been publicized to the press. Even Dick
Cheney has been forced to find lodging elsewhere. Thus the traveling
circus at night rumbles along a circuitous dog-leg of state roads and
Interstate highways 25 miles due east to that dazzling metropolis, that
shining beacon of urban futurism and cosmopolitan sinfulness, Waco. Two
years ago, at a get-acquainted barbecue the Crawford Chamber of Commerce
sponsored so local residents could interact with the
down-to-earth-when-you-get-to-know-'em reporters (NBC's David Gregory
didn't show), a woman recently relocated from Waco described her fear that
local children might pick on her son, "his bein' a city kid and all."

Approaching Waco from any angle, one's eye is immediately drawn to the
ALICO building, a singularly statuesque blonde brick building that dwarfs
all others in town, the company name emblazoned atop its roof in red neon,
except for when one of the bulbs has blown, and the town is accordingly
dwarfed by the A ICO building, or the ALI O building, or the -- you get
the point. Longtime residents snicker at newcomers who inquire if Muhammad
Ali owns the building, or the town.

They like things fried in Texas: chicken-fried steak, fried jalapeno
balls, fried bacon-wrapped bacon balls with bacon-fried stuffing. Despite
this, there are actually some fine restaurants in Waco. Just outside the
city proper, nestled far back in the woods like the gathering site for a
Mafia summit, is the North Wood Inn, a genuinely exceptional restaurant
where jackets are required and the waiters stir-fry the walnuts for
avocado salads right at the diners' tables.

Closer to home -- or at least to the invariably dreadful clutch of
Marriott and Hilton hotels where reporters stay when Mr. Bush is in the
area -- a single strip mall offers the readiest options for food, a series
of contiguous restaurants with niche specialties. Crickets delivers the
fried food, burgers, and billiards; Diamondbacks the pricy steaks;
Slow-Poke's the pulled pork sandwiches and 10,000 football screens; for
Eye-talian food, it's Graziano's, and, for Mexican, Ninfa's, where one
might espy Condoleezza Rice and savor the most unapologetic dish in all of
Mexican food-dom: The Queso Flameado, an oblong dish filled with melted
Monterrey Jack cheese, chorizo sausage, and unbridled grease. No flour
tortillas, rice, or other misguided distractions; just the good stuff.
Finally, just across from the strip mall is Buzzard Billy's, where the
specialties include fried alligator, jambalaya, and a local variation of
crawfish that Andy Schwartz, a former Fox News producer and Bethesda
resident with a taste for All Things Cajun, faulted as inauthentic.

Those willing to venture beyond the hotels and strip mall, to explore
Waco's own exotic stretches, along Valley Mills Road and other grand-rues,
will find the usual exurban landmarks (Outback, Best Buy, and so on), but
also one final eatery worthy of mention: the Health Camp. The name itself,
reminiscent of the evil, mocking slogans the Germans would have put atop
one of their camps, should be enough to signal the dangerousness of the
fare available inside this ancient (circa 1947) glass hut, designed like a
miniature Howard Johnson's, complete with arched roof, perched along one
of Waco's charming traffic circles. Cheeseburgers, chili dogs, French
fries, fried tater tots (which are also served -- who knew? -- at the
China Grill Buffet, back near the hotels)… these are the stuff of the
Health Camp. And it's damn good food, too, for those with the intestinal
fortitude for it.

The earthy Tater Wench who pushes it across the counter sometimes
expresses frustration with the computer into which she punches the orders,
before announcing them into a microphone that pipes her voice into the
kitchen. As she curses the infernal machine, one imagines the sadness that
must have accompanied its installation, sometime in the go-go 1990s. The
New York Times should have done one of its trademark
the-times-they-are-a-changin'-at-the-Health-Camp-type pieces; it would
have been perfect. But no big-time reporters came around these parts back

James Rosen is a White House correspondent for Fox News whose book, The
Strong Man: John Mitchell, Nixon, and Watergate, will be published next
year by Doubleday.

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The Long Ride Home

You really must read this post at Firepower Forward...

Two people standing alone but very near me watched the procession, unmoving and in silence for the nearly 20 minutes I stood on that ramp. Instinctively, I knew that it was the CJSOTF commander and his Sergeant Major and when our escort thankfully turned us around to return to the terminal for a few minutes, this instinct was confirmed when I caught a glimpse of their name tags and ranks.

Thinking back, I’m not sure why I did it or if I would do it again, but I was surprised to see my hand tugging at the commander’s sleeve. When he turned to face me I saw the trails of tears glistening on his cheeks, and I could say only “Sir, I’m sorry for your loss.” Words failed him but were unnecessary as he reached out and squeezed my shoulder before I started my walk back to the terminal.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Memo to Scantly Clad Actresses

This goes out to Eva Longoria and any other actress out there who is posing for or wants to pose for what a friend of mine so eloquently called "AAFES Porn". You know magazines like FHM, MAXIM or STUFF.

When you do the little interview that they do with the photo spread don't mess with the fantasy. You know what I mean. We don't want to hear about your boyfriend, husband or significant other. Honestly I'm glad you're happy and everything, but I didn't walk 2 miles through a dust storm across a gravel pit in my flack jacket and helmet to stand in line behind 40 other Joes with the same magazine at the checkout to walk the 2 miles back to my trailer to read about how happy you are to be shacked up with Marice. I've got plenty of reality here in my world sister, just allow me the fantasy for once. Is that too much to ask?

Here's an example of what I mean...In a recent edition of MAXIM magazine Eva Longoria told everyone about her work in the last election for a certain candidate and her displeasure about how stupid some folks were that voted the way that they did. This was sandwiched in between the pictures of her in her underpants so you may have missed it.

Eva, do you really thing people picked up that magazine off the rack and said, "Wow look Eva Longoria is in there I wonder what she has to say about politics?" Yeah, maybe if they had been hit the head by a brick just before going to the store. In the imortal words of a senior aviation Warrant Officer, "know your audience."

We get it, you have a brain. That is great, but no one buys those magazines for their pithy political insight or social commentary.

Maybe this rant should be directed at the dork who asked the question, but hell, all you had to say was, "Are you stupid?...I'm not answering that." I mean you're've got all these opinions and stuff, you'd think you figure out that if you start running your yap about politics that you're going to piss off 50% of the population...that is if they can read that stuff while holding the magazine with one hand. But I think you get my point. Please in the future stick to how much you love puppies and how you secretly fantasize about soldiers!

Thanks for ruining the fantasy Eva!

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For Soldiers' Farewell, A Crucial Drill

What people who are in the service may not know is, the only unit that does funeral details full time is the Old Guard and its counterparts from the other services at Arlington National Cemetery. To cover the rest of the country there are details like the one described below practicing to give our fellow soldiers the honor they deserve. THANKS GUYS!

Washington Post
July 16, 2005
Pg. 1

For Soldiers' Farewell, A Crucial Drill

Burial Teams for War Dead Often Trained on the Fly

By Christian Davenport, Washington Post Staff Writer

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- The pallbearers held the coffin at a perilous tilt. Their fitful marching was nowhere near "left-right-left" synchronicity. Even the flag draped over the coffin was rumpled at the corners.

"Hold it. Hold it!" Army Chief Warrant Officer Paul Dziegielewski said, shaking his head.

"Once you get the coffin up, keep it straight and level," he said, slashing a line through the air with his hand. The flag has to be draped smoothly, he chided, unfurling it at the sides.

"You have to remember, everyone is going to be watching you. . . . Let's try again."

In less than 48 hours, the volunteers from the Army Reserve's 99th Regional Readiness Command would be participating in a funeral, and it was immediately clear to Dziegielewski that the group of soldiers needed all the practice it could get.

The 99th, based in this town just west of Pittsburgh, doesn't have a full burial team. Until the Iraq war, it didn't need one. Now, it can be called on to perform at the funerals of soldiers from reserve units in Maryland, Virginia, the District, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

That means that Dziegielewski, the command's casualty officer, relies on volunteers he fondly calls "pencil pushers" -- the administrative assistants and supply clerks whose usual job is to get other soldiers ready to deploy.

For all that the novices learn in his crash courses, often given just a day or two before a funeral, Dziegielewski acknowledged that "we are not the Old Guard," the soldiers who make funerals at Arlington National Cemetery legendary.

Only about 150 of those killed in Iraq and about 20 killed in Afghanistan have been buried at Arlington. Many more are buried across the country in cemeteries closer to home. And with the deaths of World War II veterans, the demand for burial teams is such that some have resorted to using a bugle outfitted with a device that plays a recorded version of taps.

For this funeral, Dziegielewski had a real bugler borrowed from the Pennsylvania National Guard. It was everyone else he was worried about.

He was asking a lot of this hastily assembled band of ordinary soldiers. They not only would be representing the Army and the country, but also playing a part in a centuries-long tradition of nations honoring their war dead.

They had to be perfect.

"It's rough when you start out," Dziegielewski told the group before training began. "There's a lot of pressure. You cannot make one mistake."

The Firing Party

As Dziegielewski struggled to get the pallbearers in sync, Sgt. 1st Class Don Hammons was having just as hard a time with the firing party. At "Ready," their feet swiveled at wildly different paces. "Aim" brought their rifle barrels out in a disjointed wave. "Fire" triggered a salute so scattered it sounded like popcorn popping.

"It's going to take some repetition," Hammons said. "We have to do this as one, in sync."

All afternoon, he walked them through the movements. When they couldn't get it right on their own, he set their arms and legs in place with his own hands, as if molding pieces of clay. Count out the steps in your mind, 1-2-3-4-5, he urged. And: "Use your peripheral vision to key off the people next to you so you can keep tempo with them."

Hammons knows the consequences of war -- and the importance of honoring its fatalities. He served with the elite 101st Airborne during the Persian Gulf War. A father of five boys, he is headed to Iraq this fall, another reason he wanted his soldiers to get the steps right.

"I would want my family to get the same treatment," he said.

After a few wobbly practice runs, he grew impatient. "Stop," he said. "Watch." He tackled the routine with the controlled beauty of a dancer, tight and sharp: swivel right, back step, barrel up, aim, fire, cock the rifle, begin again.

"Like that," he said after he finished. "Like that, but faster."

Yet no matter how often the group went through its moves, Sgt. Sarah Williamson was almost always a half-step behind -- late in swiveling, late in bringing up her rifle, late in getting off the shot. Sometimes she never got it off at all.

Slight and soft-spoken, she joined the Army 2 1/2 years ago not just for the benefits that would make being a single mother of a 5-year-old boy easier, but because "I wanted to do something with my life."

By the second day of training, the pallbearers were so good that Dziegielewski let them quit at lunch. The firing party was coming along, too.

Williamson, though, was still lagging late into the day, and time was running out. Then she committed one of the worst mistakes for a soldier: Her rifle went off accidentally. Everyone around her jumped at the loud, unexpected BANG. It was just a blank, but Hammons scowled.

"That's how people get killed," he groused as they continued practicing into the hot afternoon.

No More Rehearsal

On the day of the funeral in Erie, Pa., the pallbearers stood expressionless in a row against a wall of the funeral home. The training had been so focused on getting it all right that Staff Sgt. Victor M. Cortes III, the man they had come to bury, had seemed an abstraction.

Suddenly, here were his family and friends, real and crying. The soldiers wondered who was who as they shuffled in and out of the viewing. Was the sobbing woman his mother? The two damp-eyed men his brothers? Could the woman who had slipped out to the hallway to change a baby's diaper be the girlfriend?

They knew only what little Dziegielewski had told them about Cortes as they trained. He was 29, an Army mechanic from Erie. He died of "noncombat-related injuries" in Baghdad, a gunshot wound to the head, and the incident was under investigation. It didn't matter how he died, Dziegielewski added quickly as he saw the soldiers' baffled glances. Cortes had been a soldier serving his country, and they were going to honor him.

Finally, after everyone left, the pallbearers entered the viewing room. Before carrying the coffin out, they huddled around the snapshots next to it. Here was Cortes as a baby, as an adolescent mugging for the camera with his brothers, then grown and in uniform, stern and stolid. Here he was as a father holding the infant they had seen in the hallway.

"That was his baby," one of the soldiers gasped.

The family was at the cemetery when the pallbearers arrived, marching the coffin toward the fresh grave. They looked majestic in their uniforms, clicking in step, the flag draped softly at the sides. They folded it into neat origami creases and marched off just as they had practiced.

Then it was the firing party's turn.

"Detail, present arms!" came the command. At "Ready!" the soldiers began their five-step dance, fluidly and together. Williamson swiftly pointed her rifle out at "Aim!" Then at "Fire!" -- BANG -- she got the first shot off clean. BANG, came the second, still in cadence as the shots echoed across the cemetery, over tombstones and hedgerows in the late-morning humidity. BANG, came Williamson's third, right on time.

The soldiers saluted during taps. Then the family was whisked away in a caravan of limousines. As the team relaxed for the first time all day, emotion seeped onto their faces. Master Sgt. Rhonda Beck's blue eyes were red and damp, and she complained that these funerals always leave her with a throat made sore by choking down tears.

Williamson, though, couldn't help but smile. After all the worry, she had nailed it. "It just came to me," she said. "I didn't even have to think about it."

Dziegielewski was relieved but less enthusiastic. Their performance was dignified, workmanlike, perhaps as good as they could get with two days of training. But it was not perfect. There was a bit of a delay in the firing party's second volley, he said, causing a slight crackle instead of a unified pop.

Still, he was satisfied and congratulated the soldiers for doing their duty. Best of all, he said, the family seemed satisfied and had invited them to lunch at a club.

The place was packed by the time the soldiers arrived. They huddled awkwardly off to the side, not sure about where to sit. After a brief moment, family members noticed them and guided them in with welcoming waves toward the buffet. Sit, they said. Eat, drink, stay a while.

Cortes's uncle, a middle-aged man with silver hair and a dark suit, got up from the bar, made his way through the small crowd that had coalesced around the soldiers and shook Williamson's hand. Then he went up to every one of the soldiers, patting them on their backs and looking at them with a sad, tight face.

"Thank you," he said again and again. "Thank you."



About the Title

Some folks, specifically those who have never been in the Army might wonder what this Guidon stuff is about.

In the Army every company sized element has a flag called a guidon. It is used to assemble formations and identify the unit to others from a distance. When higher headquarters has information they need to put out to everyone they make what is called a "net call". The net call is usually preceded by the call, GUIDONS, GUIDONS, GUIDONS. This alerts units that something important is coming. Not that what I have to say is all that important...but I thought it was cool and would mean something to my fellow soldiers.





I'd like to welcome all that stumble into this blog and tell you a little bit about myself and what I want to accomplish here.

First I am a AH-64D Longbow Pilot in the US Army. I have recently returned from Iraq and have been serving in the military for over 15 years. Anything I have to say here does NOT represent official Government or Army policy.

I have been encouraged by friends to give an aviator's perspective on the GWOT and other things and I will endeavor to do this as well as comment on things that entertain me and hopefully others as well.