vox veterana

Don't call me "Sir."

In which Sig attempts to explain why this bugs him so very much.

Radio check, over.

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 25 AUG 08.]

I`m not sure what Tim is up to, but I have a six-month-old. That`s my excuse, and I`m sticking with it. Also, I`ve been TDY four times in that six months, with another in a few weeks. And we moved. Life has been hectic.

But good. Really good. I`m very blessed to be living in this nation, and able to serve her full time--no pesky civilian career to get in the way any longer. I`ve been a "part time" soldier (on temporary full time status) for longer than I was ever a "full time" computer nerd, so I guess my career transformation is complete.

I`ll try to muster up some enthusiasm and ire to write something clever here, but for now I will direct you to my most recent missive of any substance, Staff Sergeant Sig. Contrary to expectations, it`s not all self-congratulatory nonsense.

To bribe you, there are also cute pictures of my son over there.

Sig

You should be reading this guy.

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 08 MAR 08.]

You wouldn`t know it from the news lately, but apparently there`s some troops over in Iraq doing something or another. Despite his handicap (LT bar), this guy has some great stuff to say, and does it beautifully and eloquently. If you want to know what it`s like to wander through the valley of the shadow of death, I can`t recommend LT G highly enough.

I`d post links to my favorites, but I`ve shared a lot of them via my Reader and I`m holding a baby in one hand, so this is already a sisyphean task.

Check him out--he writes gud.

Sig

Afghanistan, NATO, and Bill Arkin

People who have perused my site--or talked to me for more than 3 minutes--know that I can occasionally be a little bitter about the whole state of "the other war." I didn`t go to Iraq--I went to Afghanistan. When I was preparing to go back in late 2005, a lot of people were astounded to learn that we were still there. Wasn`t that a done deal?

In a way, I`m somewhat gratified to see that it`s making a comeback in the public consciousness, though I really wish it were for a different reason.

This morning my Google News page was infested by a piece by Bill Arkin. Where have I heard that name? Oh yes. That`s the asshat that prattled on about our obscene amenities last year. Today, he`s prattling on about Afghanistan. I`ll say this for Bill: he makes his opinion clearly and unambiguously.

Afghanistan: America Wrong, Europe Right
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is again beating up on Europeans for not doing more in Afghanistan, a now familiar theme in his blame-anybody-but-us strategy.

It goes on to talk about the recurring theme in Afghanistan--a lot of troops not doing a hell of a lot of actual fighting--and then lambasts SecDef Gates for seemingly trying to apply the Iraq methodology to Afghanistan when in fact these are completely different, and what Afghanistan needs is more non-kinetic ops.

I`m reposting my reply here because I have no confidence that it will still be there later:

I spent some time with a small American detachment working on a Canadian-run FOB near Kandahar in late 2006. Under their NATO commander, the Canadians could not engage in any "offensive" operations, meaning that they sat on the FOB and watched insurgents move and transport equipment through their area.

The Americans, under a US Army captain, would do "recon by fire"--that is, finding the bad guys by driving around until we were attacked--at which time we could call for a quick reaction force. This was the only time the Canadians could do anything other than purely defensive measures. I don`t know what the commanders thought, but the joes loved us for it. They could see what was happening right in front of them.

Non-kinetic operations cannot take place in the absence of security. Security requires boots and the ground and active engagement of the Taliban remnants. You won`t build any nations in a place where people are beheaded for selling Americans cigarettes, and letters are spread promising death to entire families should anyone accept humanitarian aid.

We saw what happened early last year when NATO decided not to hold the previously-secured Musa Qah`leh. A "gentleman`s agreement" with the local Talibs resulted in the town becoming a major Taliban stronghold--from the same district center that we had occupied (and fortified) weeks earlier. Taking it back required a price paid in blood.

If Secretary Gates were advocating some other strategy, no doubt you would be castigating him for not heeding the lessons learned at such cost in Iraq.

I`ve bitched about NATO in Afghanistan before. Here, I talk about Musa Qah`leh, which had to be retaken after it was essentially given back to the Talibs. Comments posted later at Blackfive about the Dutch approach resulted in this exchange.

I am a lowly E-5. Far be it from me to advise SecDef Gates on what he should push NATO to do. But it doesn`t take a rocket scientist to see that a lot of countries are not interested in shouldering a fair share of the dirty work--not even a model rocket scientist.

Sig

I voted in the primary.

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 23 JAN 08.]

...via absentee ballot, about 30 seconds before my wife informed me that my candidate had dropped out that day.

So now I`m supporting Great Cthulhu for 2008. I`m tired of settling for the lesser evil. Ph`nglui mglw`nafh Cthulhu R`lyeh wgah`nagl fhtagn!

I could possibly be talked into voting for Romney or Giuliani, however.

Sig

You can get money just about anywhere, after all.

[Full disclosure: I joined for the security clearance and the chance to beat down rioting college students. I stayed for the MREs.]

I might as well request the Easter Bunny`s e-mail address.

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 28 AUG 07.]

Is there any place where legitimate, well-intentioned, respectful, intelligent, and rational discourse about politics and military affairs can occur?

I don`t mean the narcissistic mutual admiration societies where we all sit around talking about how barking mad the other side is--I mean an actual (by which I mean virtual, online) place where you can have a reasoned debate with unlike-minded individuals and at least maintain some semblance of civil conversation.

One of the legitimate criticisms often levied against the military weblog community is that we tend to act as an echo chamber. It`s hard to know how much of that is just navel-gazing and how much is legitimate unfied concern over a major topic--particularly when it`s hard to agree what even constitutes An Important Thing. [Witness the whole Beauchamp saga.]

Comments are often full of "You are so right" and "God bless you and the troops" and "Free Viagra Prescription" (damned spambots) with the occasional "Bushitler and his thugs will all rot in hell" comment thrown in for good measure. Some of the better sites will have some respectfully dissenting opinions, but these are noteworthy for their rarity.

[Now, to be perfectly fair (which I do only when I have 3:1 odds), the military weblog community is far from the worst offender in this area. But just because other parties *coughhippies*cough* might do it doesn`t absolve us of responsibility to promote the common good.]

I guess I`m just not terribly comfortable with the journal-as-debate-forum model. One pompous blowhard (me) gets to write something, and then normal people tell him/me why he/I is/am full of crap in the comments section. It`s powerfully slanted my way, which would be a problem if I were not right all of the time.

But Sig, the argument will go, they can always open their own blog. And that`s true. But now the power relationship is reversed, and I`m leaving nasty comments about their grammar and personal hygiene and political views. In neither case is a reasonable and even-keeled discussion possible.

Maybe I`m hoping for something which can`t exist. But I recall some rousing good discussions Back In The Old Days--in my case, text-based BBS networks and moderated UseNet groups from the mid-90s. Where do people go for discussions now?

This is not a rhetorical device--I`d really like to know.

Sig

Defining moments and dividing lines

In which Sig elaborates on pre- and post-Afghanistan life.

Round in the chamber

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 31 JUL 07.]

VAJoe.com asked us to answer some questions for a little interview type dealie; my responses are over here.

Since I mentioned it in the interview, I will give notice here, as well. My wife and I recently received a warning order from the doctor`s office; we are to expect reinforcement sometime in March of 2008, bringing our total family complement up to 3. My wife takes her role as a "force multiplier" seriously.

OK, I can`t think of any more terrible military metaphors for pregnancy without devolving into the realm of the truly tasteless. As it is, jokes about muzzle velocity practically write themselves over the concept of "round in the chamber."

More scribings are in the works. Have a good one, everybody.

Sig

Delayed casualties

In which Sig addresses combat stress.

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