Friday, April 28, 2006


I like zombie movies. Heck, I like zombies. When the dead rise from the grave and start devouring humanity I say "Bring 'em on". I'm ready. I've done my homework. The most famous zombie movie is probably Night of the Living Dead by George Romero. I don't know if it's the first zombie movie, but it's the one that set the standard and established several "rules" that others follow. It was also supposed to be some deep critique on the consumer culture of the late '60s because it has zombies flocking to a mall.

The recent remake of Dawn of the Dead is my favorite zombie movie. It's not perfect, far from actually, but it is entertaining. I'm a simple man really. Dawn really just has a simple story about zombies attacking and killing people. There isn't some deep meaning to it. Or if there is no one tries to find it. That isn't so with Romero's latest, and hopefully final, foray into zombiedom.

Land of the Dead is supposed to be the final vision of the zombie world from Romero. It's entertaining enough. It has zombies. It has people. It has the former eating the latter, and the latter shooting the former. I can dig it. However, browsing through the comments and the forums on IMDB devoted to Land it seems that it is supposed to also be an updated critique on society. Watching it through the lens of "commentary on the war of terror" I suppose there are some scenes which could fit that bill. Dennis Hopper's scenery chewing monologue on how only he can save everyone. Some of "haves" and "have-nots" moments are obvious as well. But elevating it from cheap plot device, to "scathing critique" is giving a zombie movie way too much credit.

I'm not educated enough to be able to see these sorts of subtle commentaries. I'm too easily amused I suppose to observe the undercurrents that such entertainment provides. I think back on a lot of what's transpired since 9-11 and I think of a couple cultural things that were supposed to be scathing commentaries on society/Bush/America/WoT etc, and well, I just don't see it.

When Green Day's American Idiot was released I went out and got it. I'd been listening to the title track single on the radio, and it was entertaining enough. I know that Green Day is some punk band and that they're supposed to be this voice of disaffected youth and all that crap. I like the album, the song Jesus of Suburbia is a joy to listen to, but it's not something that makes me question the whole of society.

Incubus' release Crow Left of the Murder, and its released single Megalomaniac were obviously some attempt to make a commentary. But it's Incubus. I mean, c'mon... Incubus... I have a hard time accepting a call for Bush to step down from the band that did that ungoldy annoying Warning video.

The "scathing commentary" that I have to live with on a daily basis is Nine Inch Nails. I've been told that their album With Teeth is Trent Reznor's biting response about the usual "anti" list. He even refused to play the MTV Music Awards because they questioned whether he should perform one of their songs in front of an image of George Bush. I have NIN on my iPod. I like their music. I don't understand the meaning behind a lot of it because I've never really been a deeply disaffected teenager filled with hidden angst that no one understands. As a teenager I had my issues, I don't hide my angst, and not much about me is understood, just misinterpreted. But please, the only thing that Trent Reznor should be upset about it that he was in a band that covered Falco songs. Rock me Amadeus indeed.

What has happened to protest music? The 60's and 70's really did produce some damned awesome music. Lennon might have had less than brilliant taste in women, but "Imagine" is an awesome song. Its politics and worldview is naive, but it's still good music. I love A Perfect Circle, but even they couldn't do justice to it when they covered it. Much like the mass media I worry that protest music reached its peak in Vietnam. What passes for a "protest" song ain't that great nowadays, but at least it's trending up from 99 Red Balloons. I mean, honestly, if Truman had known that Germany would produce that song then maybe the Rhineland would have had the first atomic bomb dropped on them. It wouldn't have helped stop the war since it was already over in Europe, but at least it would have given Nena something legit to cry about.

It's my opinion that anything made with the intention of being a critique, commentary, or some other politically or ideology driven is usually doomed to miserable failure. There are some obvious exceptions of course, but these are but a handful in all of history. The stories that make me think and make me question are usually not ones that are patently designed to do so. I'm looking forward to seeing United 93. I don't know whether it will be any good, but it's the first major theatre release about 9-11, so at least it will be interesting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lawsuit dismissed

The federal court in Boston threw out a case brought by 12 gay and lesbian former servicemembers (reg req) challenging the legality of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. They argued that the policy violated their rights to privacy, free speech, and equal protection. Unfortunatly, all 12 people, and their legal team, seemed to forget that they were in the military.

I touched on it earlier this month that Soldiers are not as free as regular citizens to express our opinions. As a Soldier I'm not allowed to get a tattoo on my forehead that says "Army Rulz!". I can't have pierced ears. I'm not allowed to eat anything I want and not exercise and become morbidly obese. Growing a goatee is not authorized either. There are all sorts of restrictions on behavior inherent to the military. None of those restrictions weren't in place when these 12 people joined. It's not like 10 years ago the Army had an open-door policy and allowed all sorts of people from the Gay Pride parade to join and suddenly the rules changed leaving this dozen out in the cold. They joined full-well knowing what the military's policy on homosexual conduct was.

I'd mentioned before that I'm not a raging homophobic. As a matter of fact I, like most of America, am pretty ambivalent when it comes to gay people. Hell, if i was promoted tomorrow to "Lord All High Master of the World" I'd probably remove the prohibition on gay people in the military. I'd have to think about the whole transgendered thing a bit more though, because, well, that's creepy. But someone who is just attracted to someone with the same equipment, to each their own.

Although my personal opinions might not agree with the policy, it is a policy that was debated at length in the legislature, and has been upheld in court several times over the past 13 years. I'm sure those 12 really do want nothing more than to return to the service, but they violated a very clear cut rule. Lawsuits seeking to overturn it accomplish nothing but give the plantiffs attention. I'm not a legal scholar but I'd think it's pretty well-established law that the military does not have to abide by the same hiring and discrimination rules as a civilian organization does.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the weapon of choice for agenda driven groups with which to beat the military and recruiters about the head and shoulders. I have no doubt that changing the rule from "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to "We're Here, We're Queer" won't change a thing on the campuses of America's colleges. It won't result in UC Berkley putting an on-campus recruiter's office in the student lounge. All the policy does is give people who have no intention of joining the military a convient excuse that sounds good. It's a much better feeling to tell the recruiter to "eff off because the Army discriminates" than to tell the recruiter to "eff off because I'm a pansy."

Although the day the Army changes its policy I have a whole list of people to call because they're now eligible. I wonder how many of them will jump at the chance.

More than I'd expected

UC Santa Cruz issued an apology of sorts for the actions of their students during the anti-recruiting protest earlier this month. They actually go a bit further than I'd have expected in their comments about the students. Even pointing out that they cowardly covered their faces so as to avoid responsibility for their actions. The message even recognizes the professionalism of the faculty, campus security, and the military recruiters in the whole affair. There is the mandatory remarks about the actions of the Students Against War not representing the rest of the campus, and they're probably right. I might question their "75 protesters", but I've only seen pictures, and I don't care enough to individually count each person. They were there, I wasn't.

What I'm more curious about is what they're going to do next. The Students Against War is obviously a group that isn't going to play by the rules the campus requires. From my own experiences back in my college days campus groups that don't play by the rules do face sanction. I my case it turns out that there was some stupid rule against an intramural rugby team streaking the library during dead week. Who would have thunk it? I can't imagine that an unruly mob interrupting a university sponsored event, and threatening the safety of guests of the university is something that falls within the campus rules. Maybe it's not enough to remove whatever vaneer of respectability that UCSC provides to the group, but I'd be willing to bet that an academic suspension of the group's leadership would catch someone's attention.

Anyways, good on the administration for coming out and issuing something more than the expected mealy-mouthed ode to campus diversity of thought. If they press on and actually do something about the people who facilitated the event, all the better, but you've got to crawl before you can walk.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


So, anyone have any idea how a recruiter could go about getting access to the FBI database? I'd really like to be able to reduce positive matches. This is not because of some recent event. The positive match I'd taken months ago has never stopped sticking in my craw. The FBI makes their fingerprint and DNA database available for any law enforcement agency to use. They're even making a database of shoe prints for law enforcement use.

Why, oh why, are recruiters in the field not given this access? MEPSCOM apparently has it, so why does USAREC not? Why is it not available to all is poor recruiters toiling away in the salt mines? We already eliminate some wasted time by a quick public records search. Why not take it to the next level?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tilting windmills

My reaction to last week to Kevin's call to arms actually elicited a response from the subject. I was flattered as well. Aside from a handful of people (Hi Mom!) I don't believe what I write gets a lot of eyeballs. Actually having someone read something, and then care enough about it to comment back is really quite flattering. Unfortunatly I wasn't a good enough writer to make Kevin go "Wow, I'm so very very wrong. Thank you SFC B for helping me see the error of my ways. Do you have any free time next week? I'd like to set up an Army Interview because I want to come back into the service." Honestly, I wouldn't care whether he changed his mind, but I could sure use the contract.

As often happens in the bloggy things I find myself unable to just let it go. In defense of his views Kevin quotes James "Father of the Constitution" Madison. This is why I hate getting into arguments like this. I'm going to lose. I dropped out of college. I don't read political theory or history for fun (quiz me on Dirk Pitt novels and I'll amaze you though) so I lack the vast library of pertinent quotes with which to attack others or defend myself. To make matters worse I don't often have the right combination of time to write, motivation to write, or inspiration to write. I do have to put people into boots, and trying to defend my opinion against someone like James Madison is quite the task.

One I'm not up to.

Luckily I don't always see the windmills.

James Madison was an ungodly brilliant man who'd be Inner Circle in the fictious Pantheon of American Political Heros. He wrote the Constitution, it doesn't get more awesome than that. He was also a shrewd politician who knew how to compromise and that when it comes to humans "good enough" is the best you can hope for. He was an idealist, but he was also pragmatic. That he doesn't get the love that his Consitiutional peers Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton get is more a function of his being good at everything rather than being a charismatic leader, philosophier, or whatever.

However hiding behind a quote from him on a subject completly unrelated to the argument at hand strikes me as... a... I think it's a strawman. I'm not sure though.

Madison was addressing the legislature about not authorizing a standing Army because of the fear that such an entity would lead to tryanny (I'm simplying). I'd like to point out that arguing against a standing Army is kind of a moot point since we've now had a standing Army since, what, WWII? And Madison would go on to support the creation of an Army by the end of his Presidency.

But enough talking about great Americans. Why don't we get back to a not-so-great one.

"First, I make no apology nor do I need to clarify. I DO THINK the military, as it currently is being led and used, is a danger to our way of life, the officers have become political (i.e., the blogs) and they are beginning to exert an influence on American Society that they never were intended to do (although many warned us that this could happen with a long standing Army)."

You think the military is a danger? Your opinion, you're entitled to it. Want to fix it? Do better in the elections. May I suggest you start by not saying the military is a threat to the Nation. I know that doesn't make sense, but in a free country like ours,people are free to vote as they wish. Soldiers tend to not vote for people who say we're a bigger threat to freedom than the guys blowing up polling stations and flying planes into buildings. And those who support us will tend to vote against those folks as well. As for Soldiers becoming political, well, we're allowed to be. I'm allowed to volunteer my time to political campaigns. I'm allowed to attend rallies. I just can't do them in uniform or make anything I do seem to represent an official view. Would you prefer that Soldiers simply be automatons who do not see, think, or act for themselves? As for unintended consquences, I guarantee that the Founding Fathers never envisioned the PRESS to become a self-styled fourth branch of the government. The "fear" you mention relating to a long-standing Army has nothing to do with the Army being long-standing. Instead it's because the tools now exist for people to be heard. The opinions have always been there, the ability to get them out had not.

The Army is perpetuating war to their benefit and they are publicly supporting one candidate over another, not as individuals, but as a collective "Army". Can a right wing, fascist Central American style coup be far behind?"

I'm curious how the Army is perpetuating the war to their benefit. But that's a minor curiosity at best. What I'm more interested in is how the opinions of Greyhawk, Blackfive, and any other milbloggers who disagree with you happen to represent the United States Army as a whole. That a bunch of writers relate their experiences and personal opinions that support one candidate over another, or one politcal party over another somehow comes together to form one massive "Army" is a stretch I'm not getting. If I may be so bold as to suggest that the support is because one side is pretty consistent in saying they support the troops, while the other says they wouldn't join, or that we're as bad as Saddam. Who would you support? As for your question about a coup... um... yeah. It would be very, very, very far behind. Since nothing is impossible it is posible such a thing would occur, but then again it's also possible the sun won't rise tomorrow or that we'll experience total existence failure. I'd have to say the chance of a military coup would be an very, very tiny, non-zero chance. As I'd said in my original response, it wouldn't be easy to amass the force necessary to do something like that. That you don't realize that is why you're wrong.

"How about the discretionary power of the executive (i.e., wiretapping??)"

Lincoln suspended Habeus Corpus twice, and had people arrested for critisizing the steps he was taking to preserve the Union. Americans were arrested and held by military authority for offenses including discouraging enlistment. On the scale of "executive overreach" listening to the communications of known or suspected terrorists calling into the United States pales in comparison. Particulary since such action really does seem to be something the President has the authority to do, or at least is enough of a gray area that it needs further clarification.

"I question whether Detailed Recruiter knows all that is going on in the Army but he says that an older enlistee must meet all the same standards. Maybe, but what about the back door draft? The Army waived all requirements for weight, blood pressure, etc. etc. for IRR soldiers who are being forced back in to the Army."

When did I say anything about IRR transfers? IRR Soldier's original point in your post was that the Army was lowering it's standards by accepting people over 35. I counter that they're not since there are no provisions lowering the enlistment standards for people between 35-40. They're not allowed to have a lower AFQT. They're not allowed to enlist with a 3 in their PULHES. Increasing the age limit might be a sign that the Army requires more people, but it's not an indication of the Army lowering their standards to meet the mission.

Since Kevin brought it upthough, I've always been curious how people who who signed a contract saying "8 years" on the front page, then being given orders to the IRR 6 years later, find themselves surprised when orders come pulling them into a unit. It's like getting those IRR orders makes people forget they're still in the Army. How low does someone's QT need to be to think they're honestly being drafted when they're already in the service? Surprised I could see. Upset, sure. Even think it's unfair, but a draft, nah. As for being "forced back into the Army", that's a misdirection at best, and a lie at worst. No one was being forced back in since they're already in the Army. It's a personnel action, involuntary (forced if you prefer), but a personnel action nonetheless.

"If I were in the military, what I would really be concerned with is the fact that the mismanagement of the military and the MISUSE of the military by Bush, will cause people to review why we have them in the first place. My prediction is that if the military does not start working towards correcting what is happening , they will be caught in the "back blast" of the protest against this administration."

In the second paragraph of his post Kevin questions the possibility of a right wing coup. What he fears isn't a military coup, it's a coup by the wrong side.

"...if the military does not start working towards correcting what is happening," and by "happening" he means Bush's management and use of the military, "[the military] will be caught in the 'back blast' of the protest against this administration."

How, pray tell, does the military work toward correcting the perception of it's actions under the commander in chief? Does he actually want/expect active generals and other leaders to come out and question what the commander-in-chief does? That's insubordination at best, treason at worst. Maybe he expects more military bloggers to come out against the commander-in-chief, but earlier in his post Kevin called it dangerous that military officers were taking such a politcal bent, if it's dangerous for pro-Bush people to do it, it wouldremain dangerous for anti-Bush people to do it. So, obviously the military can't work towards correcting by issuing statements. As the old saw goes "actions speak louder than words." Kevin already supports Soldiers disobeying lawful orders, so it's really not that much of a stretch to see him supporting the military overthrowing a President he doesn't support.

It's late, I'm tired. I'm not good at arguments like this, and I know that most of my six readers (Morning Rider) don't like it when I ramble on and on. I expect Kevin will chalk this up as a "right wing nut" thing and ignore it as most will. If he does respond I have no doubt I'll be picked apart and he'll pick another great patriot or Founding Father who has a very fitting quote. I don't think John Adams gets enough love, maybe he can find a quote from him. I used to drive through Braintree and it's a pretty place.

**minor quibble below feel free tostop reading if you made it this far you poor, poor soul**

It's SFC B, not Detailed Recruiter. I do write under that name as well, just not here. It changes nothing, and it's probably my own fault for not being consistent across sites, but it's something that just annoyed about the post.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Super Sweet

Two in a row. And a come from behind win to top it off. Wily Taveras came up with his first two RBIs of the year with a sharp liner to left center to take the lead 3-2. The floodgates opened. By the end of the inning the Astros would put up a 7 spot, including Morgan's 2nd homerun in as many games. They'd need all of it too as Dan Wheeler hurt his fantasy value for me getting tagged for three runs without recording an out before Lidge came in to close the deal.

And with the Astros' flight to Milwakuee taking off I'm forced back to watching games on TiVo until August when the Astros come back for another 3 game weekend set.

SSG Rage, in 74 wins I'll take my $100 in a money order. I can also do PayPal.

Much better

The Astros got started early and never let up. Morgan Ensberg got things going in the second with a rocket to left that didn't stop until it was in the Diamondback's bullpen. Had a great view of it leaving his bat from right behind the Astros dugout.

Although the Astros would go on to post 9 more runs, including home runs by Adam Everett (aka Baby New Year) and Jason Lane, the star of the game was Wandy Rodriguez. The short left hander went 7 innings, fanned 6, walked 1, and gave up only 2 hits and 0 runs. It was easily the best game of his career. I'll be back up the right field line today in the same area I sat on Friday.

Morgan Ensberg rules. Jimy Williams should be eternally barred from baseball for jerking with his young career. If Williams had actually played Ensberg when he was a rookie maybe Williams wouldn't have lost his job. Oh well, Jimy's gone on to the pasture and the Astros have one of the best third basemen in the game. Yay Astros!

It's 10, and the game starts at 12:40. I'm rolling out to try and snag some autographs. Hope everyone has a happy Easter.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Army recruiting seems pretty well represented in the blog world. Well, not necessarily well represented as there are only a handful of us. But I've never seen a blog from recruiters of the other services. If anyone knows of any, please let me know. I can't help but think that the Marines would make for some funny stuff. Air Force less so. I mean, what would an Air Force recruiter say? "Oh, my day was so hard, I had five people walk in today and had to DQ two because they had a tattoo. The others are enlisting next week. Damn. I'm going to be in the office until 5 putting together their enlistment packets. That sucks. Wish I was like the Army guy next door. That SFC B never has ANYONE at his desk bothering him."

One ring to rule them all

Military Recruiter had mentioned that we'd been talking about setting up a Recruiting Ring. Well, it's started. If you're a current, former, or soon-to-be military recruiter or a recruit from any of the Armed Services, and would like to join just follow the link, add the code for the ring, and welcome aboard. I have no idea what I expect to become of this, but it's better to have it become something unexpected than never have it happen.


I wouldn't mind having to work on Saturday so much if my Astros hadn't played like shite yesterday. Andy Pettitte's velocity and location were off all game and I don't think he had a 1-2-3 inning. Although he did last 6 innings, giving up only 3 runs, 2 earned. The Astros offense simply failed to deliver all night long. Oh well. It's a long season and I wasn't expecting them to go on a 140 game winning streak.

This is the view from where I was sitting.

I've never been able to catch a foul ball while at a game. I've only had a few even come in my direction. I'd hoped that something along the foul line would change my luck a bit, but of course I forgot the Astros sport a very righty heavy lineup so flys down the right field line were unlikely. Oh, I also forgot the Astros seem to be incapable of making contact with the freaking ball.

Jason Lane is one of the true oddities of baseball. If I recall correctly he's the only active ball player who bats right and throws left. The last one before him? Rickey Henderson.

I'd previously mentioned truth in advertising when it came to thongs and Bush. Well, it seems that someone knew themselves very well when they bought their shirt. This kid spent the whole game looking at anything but the event he'd paid money to see.
Oh well. Today represents a new day and a new game. Got my tickets. It'll be fun no matter what.

Just for you SSG George. There have been 16 presidents since the Cubs last won a World Series.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Good Guys!

Tonight I'll be taking up seats along the right field line for the Astros and the Diamondbacks! I couldn't believe it when I saw the 'Stros were going to be playing two series here in Arizona. I get to them them this weekend, and again in August. In celebration of this weekend I've been playing Apollo XVIII's The Good Guys over and over again.

SSG Rage, shut up.

SSG George, in case you'd forgotten from earlier this week.

Since the last time the Cubs won the World Series: Radio has been invented.

Cat blogging

Yup... it's Friday. It's a cat. It's a blog. It's Friday cat blogging.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Shows his spots

Kevin over at Command TOC has made a nice name for himself as a prior officer who is now anti-Bush, Iraq, whatever. Me, personally, Id always lumped his opinions into the category of "patriotic dissent". I know dissent is important. There has to be some voice out there crying "foul" about what the majority does. It can act as a voice of reason I suppose, or at least give voice to some other ideas.

There is a difference though between "patriotic dissent" and "being on the other side." I'm relativly confident that line is crossed when the phrase "(W)e need to CRUSH the American Military," is used. When he goes on to specify that the leadership is a threat to America and questions whether the military represents a greater threat than Osama I'm confident in my conclusion about which side he falls on.

Occasional commenter IRR Soldier is someone who I don't agree with. However I'd like to think that his problems with the Army come from his opinion of our recruiting efforts, and the inequities of service between the classes. I think he's wrong, but at least his concerns about enlistment standards come from a belief that the Army should represent the best (if I'm wrong about that IRR Soldier, let me know and I'll edit).

Previously I'd taken Kevin's comments about perceived lowering standards and his efforts to help people get out of their military service to be some sort of twisted way of trying to keep the quality of the Army high. Don't ask me why I thought that, I have a record of being too kind. It's something I'm aware of, and I've learned to live with it.

The great irony of Kevin's post is that he denounces Greyhawk as trying to somehow mislead America and that he is "dangerous to our way of life."

I'd like to take a moment and explore this concept. I'm way out of my element when it comes to this sort of thing, and I fully expect my comments to be filled with brilliantly written responses from the offending parties that willl cut me to my quick and show me what a tool of the system I am. Well, I exaggerate. I don't think anyone I'm writing about considers me important enough to bother commenting on, so I'm not expecting anything as far as comments go.

Assume that Greyhawk does represent some extreme Ameri-fascist party. That he does want to replace the Constitution with the HalliBusHitlerCo Employee Handbook. What are the odds against such a movement succeeding? America has a pretty good track record for resisting tyranny. Military support of minor law enforcement actions require a freaking Pentagon review. Marching the 1st ACR into D.C. would be difficult. Actually stripping away protections afforded by the Constitution is not an easy task, as much as someone would like to believe. A flag burning amendment can't pass because of freedom of speech concerns. Making Bush President for Life won't make it through committee. I think it's safe to say that despite Kevin's fantasy world of Greyhawk being part of a Neocon cabal to overthrow the country, the likelyhoo of it happening is remote.

Unlike Greyhawk's evil plans, Kevin's hopes to destroy the military have a chance to succeed. Vietnam showed that a properly motivated and publicized minority can bring America to her knees. I don't even need to strain myself to imagine a scenario where Kevin's hopes to see America defeated come true. All that needs to happen is for blogs like Greyhawk, Blackfive, and Smash to go away. Glenn Reynolds stops doing his thing and the support for the war and the troops will go away.

I myself mention this topic a couple times. And I'm sure people can find better written and thought out examples elsewhere. When it comes to the military and Iraq the media will not give a fair shake. They will not, can not, present an honest, unbiased assesment. They don't have the space for it. WWII newspapers would feature whole sections, daily, devoted to war news. Battles, casualities, victories, defeats, planning, etc. At best Iraq and Afghanistan will rate two pages in the middle of the paper where everything about the military will be talked about. The coverage will increase only when a signifigant anniversary comes, or someone with a local tie is killed.

The big drum beaten violently by the anti-stuff folks is a lowering of standards. A view that the Army is now made of poorer quality than it was yesterday. As a guy who is very close to that side of things, they're wrong. Flat out. If someone tells you the Army is lowering the quality of people joining they are misinformed at best, flat out lying at the worst. Yes, the Army front-loaded CAT IV enlistees this year. Each year the Army has an enlistment cap of about 2% for people in that particular mental category. That means the Army can not have more than 2% of the Soldiers going through training be in that category. Previously the Army would open that category up at the end of the FY as a way to close shortages in the mission.

The problem with waiting until the end of the year is it would result in training seats going vacant. If someone enlists on the 13th of September, and they fail to ship out on 1 OCT because they got a DUI on 20SEP, that seat will go unfilled. By loading the front of the year the Army has the rest of the year to refill those seats with more qualified applicants, or by reopening the CAT IVs. My station hasn't been able to write a CAT IV since early November. The fact the is accepting people with a 30 or below is front page news. When the Army closes the category it gets no coverage, nor does any reason for the wide openness beyond "lowering standards, Bush's fault."

Another source of ammo for anti-stuff folks was the increase in recruiting ago for Non-prior service applicants. It currently stands at NLT 42nd birthday, but those require special processing and qualifications. For most people 40 is the cut off age.

As someone who'd be a platoon sergeant in rest of the Army, I admit I'd have a bit of a bias against someone who was 37 and coming into the Army for the first time as a PV1. It just looks wrong. But actions speak louder than words, at least I feel they do to a real Soldier. That 37 year old shows they can hang, more power to them. Glad to have them in the fight.

When a 38 year old walks in and says they want to join, they need to meet the same standards that an 18 year old needs to. There isn't some special allowance for higher blood pressure because you're older. It wouldn't surprise me to find that the average over 36 enlistee is actually in better health than the average younger enlistee. It's not a lowering of the standards, it's widening the pool of available Soldiers.

As for claims that waivers are a sign of lowering quality... well... that's discussed here. The comments by Roy and Station Commando are dead on.

Kevin wants to see America defeated. He wants our country to lose. There really is no other way to take his desire to see the military CRUSHed. There is no scenario where the military is CRUSHed and America comes out stronger. The War on Terror is the Cold War redux. It's a war against a violent ideology that is antithetical to everything in the Constitution. This isn't Vietnam where defeat mean embarassment, and a black mark on our soul for abandoning those who supported us to a violent government and re-education centers. To lose against the Islamofascists/Forces of Militant Islam/ whatever the PC term is will be the destructon of everything we hold dear. It won't be a quibbling about who is able to get library reading lists. It will be the burning of books, destruction of CDs, and the burqatizing of women. Those are the stakes.

**F-bombs ahead**

Denmark has seen what happens when someone attempts to call a spade a spade in the battle. They had their embassies attacked and set on fire. That is an act of fucking war. Why is it that the only people in the government who seem to realize that we are in a war are in the fucking White House? Why is it that minor, ancillary connections between Bush and Jack Abramahoff get the front page treatment, while CNN cowers behind a black bar for some fucking cartoons, and the Cartoon Network's South Park is the show that actually goes out and tells it like it is.

Anyways, it's late/early, I'm tired, and have a busy day tomorrow. The digs at recruiting, the fever-swamp rantings about Halliburton enrichment plans, and all that were what I expected to see from Kevin. Seeing him cross the line and go into rooting for the other side was too damned much.


This post had originally started as a diatribe about comparing being a Soldier to working the register at McDonald's. It changed thanks to a conversation with the best applicant on Earth. Ms. Rider has been working on getting into the Army since 2004. She even succeeded and joined as a 97B. Her side of the story is well documented on her blog. I don't agree with her choice to not ship, but I can empathize with what she was feeling, and I can believe that a scenario like that could happen. Try as we might us recruiters are not always as up front with our applicants and future Soldiers as we could be. She got caught up in that and was left a bit disillusioned. Regardless, she still wants to serve. Since Ms. Rider accounts for about 12% of my audience there isn't a great need to give background, but I will because it makes the story more interesting.

She works at a gym, teaches a spin class, and is by any definition in great shape. Well, almost any definition. By her own admission she has a rather ample butt with everything else being pretty skinny. Which gets me closer to my point.

Even though it doesn't get a lot of press anymore, the Army is still going through a transformation. As I understand it the point of the transformation is to make the Army more flexible and lethal. For me the sum total of the Transformation was new head gear, but I'm a very tiny, unimportant cog. I'm sure you other five readers (Hi Mom!) are curious what Ms. Rider's butt has to do with the Army Transformation; I'll get to it.

For the Army there is but one test to determine body fat. The Tape Test. The tape test consists of taking at least two measurements of a man's abdomen and neck, or at least two measurements of a woman's hips, neck, forearms, and wrist. You take the results, run them through a couple of involved mathematic formulas, and coming to a result. There are several simple programs available for Soldiers to make the math easier and less prone to error. I'm yet to meet a fitness or nutrition guru who felt that the tape test was an accurate assessment of body fat, let alone fitness. However it is something that's cheap, easy, and can be done by an E-0 with a minimum of training. And for 99% of the people who will join the Army it's accurate "enough".

The problem comes when "accurate enough" doesn't work, and that is where Ms. Rider finds herself. A quick pinch of a caliper would show that Ms. Rider easily makes the body fat requirements, but there is no provision in the Army's regulations to allow for such a test. It's the tape or nothing. That is where my frustration lies. Every week I can read in the Army Times about something new and different being tried, tested in the battlefield, found to be excellent, and implemented across the Army. The Army basically scrapped 50 years of experience with heavy armor to move to something lighter based on nothing but the expectation that change was coming (I'm generalizing, dear God DO NOT take my comments as official, it's my opinion). And come that change did. The War on Terror is unlike anything we've fought before. It's Cold War strategy with hot war battles. It requires us to be lethal and flexible.

The Army has implemented several programs and changes to help us meet the requirements. The 09L program fills a cultural shortfall in people who speak the language. The age limit increase expands the eligibility pool for enlistees, attracting people with more mature skills. Equipment procurement has been streamlined, and off-the-shelf technology is becoming more and more commonplace. These are all changes made Post 9-11, or were started before 9-11 but were ramped up to meet the needs of the service.

I'm sure I'll take some flak for this comment from many folks, it's probably justified, but my blog, my opinion. Recruiting is a front line in the War on Terror. While the Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the fighting force, we one the streets are trying to find the next 6-10 years worth of the Army. Any gains we make on the battle field have to be sustained by the efforts of people who are not even in High School yet.

Recruiting doesn't stand around and let the world pass them by. In my short time in USAREC I've seen some pretty impressive changes in some of the programs. The most obvious one is of course the bonuses. A couple months ago the Army doubled the maximum allowable bonuses for the RA and the AR. $40,000 and $20,000 respectively are now available for people who enlist. Very recently the Army introduced a Referral Bonus to encourage people in the Army to refer someone they know. These were all good ideas that help put people into the Army. I'm curious how many more people they put in though.

Enlistment bonuses, at least from what I've seen, don't make someone join the Army. They help the Army meet particular enlistment needs. Someone who wants to be a MP with an $8,000 bonus might decide that being a cannon crewmember is a more attractive option when it comes with a $35,000 bonus. But that doesn't put anyone else into the Army. The kid who I was using in that example was a walk in who wanted to join because he thought it was the right thing to do. The money just helps him choose something else.

Most people won't join the Army because of the available bonus. The bonus can help those on the fence decide they want to do it, but those sorts are people who are already pretty committed to enlisting, the bonus just made the choice easier. The magic bullet of recruiting woes is a way to increase the pool of available people, while not making the quality of the pool shallower. It's a difficult balance to strike. Ms. Rider represents part of that extended pool.

There number of people who are like Ms Rider are few, but they're there. If a gun was held to my head to come up with a number I'd bet that each recruiting battalion could find 10 people who fail a tape test, but would have a caliper measured body fat 5% or more under the taped body fat. Why we don't allow these people to enlist makes my nose bleed. 40 Recruiting battalions, 10 people each battalion, that's 400 a year. Not all of these are fully new people. Some of them will lose the weight necessary to enlist under the tape, but not all and not all quickly, but still, it seems like exploring the advantages of a $30 fat caliper is a better investment in adding strength to the Army than a $40,000 bonus.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is there are ways we can make the Army better without lowering the quality. Restricting ourselves to only one measurement of fitness for initial procurement isn't a smart thing to do. We turn away qualified people because they can do mad squats in a gym. I know that this is just going to go out into the echo chamber of my fellow recruiters, and sometimes all I want is a bit of reassurance that I'm not crazy.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


In a classic battle for the ages two recruiting stations, apprearing to be evenly matched, met in a titanic battle for supremacy on the most noble battlefield: Luke AFB Softball Field 1.

The good and pure Bravos in Name Only (my team for those who doesn't get the reference) faced off against the cruel and evil Dee-Bos from the North. Despite a few fielding miscues the Bravos triumphed 25-17. SSG George led the charge with a perfect day, going 5-5 with 2 HRs, 2 triples, and a single. Chris "The Rocket" went the distance on the mound notching 8 strike outs.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Between my conversations with people who email me, and people I read I've learned a lot about the act of recruiting people. This was brought to the forefront of my mind by a conversation I had with SGT Patience.

Recruiting school teaches how to conduct an appointment through a script. You have to say particular things and the interviewee (one of your classmates) will respond in a set way. Then end result is a commitment from the interview, as long as you hit the right marks. The tools we are given by the recruiting school are what we go out into the recruiting world with, and those tools are inadequate when confronted with reality.

Primarly what we were taught were the benefits. The money, the training, the education benefits, etc. When a recruiter first hits the road that's all we have to go with. When conducting an appointment we focus on repeating the benefits. Like all jobs in the Army the school only provides the basics, on-the-job experience is supposed to provide the rest, but it doesn't always.

It's my opinion that Army recruiting is very focused on a small portion of the population. We're trained to recruit high school students, those fresh out of high school, and those in college but who won't be staying in college for any number of reasons. Once someone gets beyond the age of about 22-23 Army recruiting efforts will have less and less effect. Someone who is 28, married with a kid, and a degree isn't as likely to be swayed by the efforts of

The Army has recruiting efforts designed to focus on particular professionals. Medical professionals and lawyers each have their own specific recruiting teams. People trained in the specific needs of those professionals and the benefits available to them. I think it was blogger and occasional SFC B commenter IRR Soldier who'd suggested that the Army should have recruiters devoted to an officer recruiting mission. Not just someone pulled from the ranks and told to recruit officers, but people selected and trained for the mission; a commissioned officer or a senior NCO.

Talking to a HS senior, or someone in their freshman or sophomore years of college is very different from talking with a college grad or someone already in the work force. They have different motivations. The money to be made as a Soldier is good money to a HS student. Some college kid working two jobs to try and make ends meet after mom and dad cut him off will benefit greatly from the $36,000 the GI Bill will provide. Recruiters are very good about about telling applicants what is materially available for them.

Shifting from the people who have never had a career before to people who currently have a very successful career is a difficult shift. And that shift is something we're not well trained to handle. A 26 year old woman with a college degree stuck in a middle management job at a corporation will likely have different motives for enlisting than a guy who still has his high school cap and gown hanging in his closet. Unfortunatly we walk out of the recruiting course with one tool, telling people about the financial and training benefits of the service.

Other tools do come with experience, but they're experiences which usually come as a surprise. Knowing when to shut-up and listen is the tool that probably develops last for a recruiter. I suppose the reason for that is how we're trained to keep talking; keep building interest. The problem with that is we're building interest in the Army, not showing the applicant we're interested in them for anything beyond a number.

In all harsh reality we are usually just interested in someone as a number. It's a sad, but true reality on the ground that the numbers are all-important. Failure to produce will result in pain. I might like to spend two hours bullshitting with an applicant who hasn't committed to enlisting, but odds are I can't afford that time. Striking the balance between focusing on the number, and focusing on the person is the key. When I figure it out I'll let you know.

It's far harder to listen than it is to talk. Recruiters are great talkers. We can go on and on and on and on and on. And we will often be met with a "I have to think about it," and we'll follow up with an "obviously you have a reason for saying that..." and we'll eventually terminate the lead for lack of a commitment. I've made it a personal goal to try and improve the listening portion of my efforts. Hopefully I'll enlist someone quick next week and I'll be able to take the leeway to try something new. Otherwise I'll be walking up to everyone saying "Hey, want to join the Army?"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


CW4 Michael J. Novosel, Medal of Honor receipent for his actions as a medical evac pilot in Vietnam passed away earlier this week. One of his grandchildren went on to become the creator of 8-Bit Theatre, one of the comics I read daily. Brian puts his citation, and his own tales of his grandpa out there for us to read.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Good on them

Between the high voter turn-out for elections, and the huge turn-out of people for recruiting drives, there is good news coming out of Iraq. I have no doubt that a good number of the people applying for the Iraqi Army do so because it's the best paying, honest work that can be found. Although I don't need the reminder, I do keep Dreadcow's observations about the military media machine in mind. The media is a huge beast encompassing everything from the major networks, to cable news, to national publications, to local papers, to blogs, to free indie jobs who support their publication through personal ads, and even Jon Stewart. One of the few things I've learned through my nearly 3 decades on this mortal coil is that women feel soft, smell good, and are pure evil. Another thing I've learned is that the truth and facts are out there. You just need to look at a couple places to find them.

A little over a week ago I'd kinda touched on the topic of what we see, and what's actually happening. In a war torn country, where suicide and IED attacks are common, 400 men lined up to try and join the army. That's a huge accomplishment and it's something that needs publicity beyond the USMC's website. Blackfive is the one who broke the story to me, and he gets as many visitors in a day as I have since I started. But it's still a drop in the bucket. In a just and fair world a story about 400 men appliying for the Army and 179 being accepted, would immediatly follow, or preceed a story about an attack against the recruits. Maybe to try and show the contrast. Maybe to show that, despite the dangers, people are willing to take the risk because they think it's worth. Hell, the reporter could even spin it as the poor, easily manipulated Iraqis being bought with filthy American dollars to further the interests of Halliburton and Bushco. But it receives no mention, and that is my frustration. Because I'm a "solution" oriented kinda guy, here's my suggestion, reporters feel free to use it as you wish.

"This week insurgents/terrorists/freedom fighters (choose whichever euphamism your paper/network/blog prefers, I'm flexible) attack an Iraqi Army base in Mosul, targeting Iraqis applying to join the Iraqi Army. 17 applicants were killed, another 30 were wounded. The wounded were taken to the US Army base at Tall Afar for treatment. Elsewhere in Iraq, 400 Iraqis applied to join the Iraqi Army, and 179 were accepted by recruiting officials in the western province of Al Anbar. Security for the mobile recruiting effort was provided by Marines of th 1st Bn, 7th Regt and the Iraqi Security Forces."

Maybe I'm just too stupid or naive, but that quick paragraphs seems, to me at least, to convey what happened, with a minimum of opinion. It provides both the good (lots of people wanting to join) and the bad (some of those that join are being targeted by insurgents). And that's all I ask for from my news, what happened. These events don't happen in a vacuum, but they're treated like they are. If all someone hears about is the attacks against Iraqi police and army recruits, how can someone not think "Why the hell do these people keep volunteering? They're always getting attacked and killed." Since the sheer volumne of people applying, and the fact that it's happening all across Iraq, never makes it to the mass media, that question goes unanswered.

Thursday I was talking with my newest enlistee, a HS senior named Mr. 2000. He asked me about Iraq and how long I thought we'd be there. I answered the way I usually do "Probably a while, hell, we're still in Germany and WWII has been over for 60 years." Anyways, we got to talking about how the war will end and I remarked that it's something that will just... stop. Sometime in the hopefully not too distant future the attacks will simply dry up. There's going to be no formal surrender, no turning in of weapons, all that will happen, and is happening, will the people get sick of it. Terrorists will be turned in. Some neighbor will call the cops because he knows the guy down the street as some old artillery shells in his basement. The insurgency will end with a whimper, not a bang. And it's something that will go unnoticed by the majority of Americans getting their news from the traditional media.

In his New Historical Baseball Abstrat Bill James talks about a change that happened in baseball in the early 80s. When he attened games back the James talked about how there were always loud, obnoxious drunks in the stands. Not happy, fun, buzzed people, but the sort of drunks who gives drunks a bad name. Then, and James noticed it for the first time at a game in 1984, it just stopped. Baseball developed a multi-layered plan of increasing security, decreasing vendors, restricting sales, and educating vendors on signs someone is drunk. The problem of drunks fighting, throwing things onto the field and at players, just dried up. "Something that odesn't happen isn't news," was James' take on the situation. It's my opinion that's what's going to happen in Iraq. It won't be a nice, neat downward slope, but the number, size, scope, and casualities caused will trend downward. There were a lot of unsecured munitions in Iraq, between Iraq-Iran leftovers, Gulf War leftovers, weapons caches stored by Saddam's regeime, and weapons imported from Iran, Syria, and any other bordering states that's a whole lot of supplies. But they are finite and can be controlled.

All the munitions in the world are useless without someone to use it. There are only so many people willing to strap an artillery shell to their chest and walk into a check point. Granted, you only need one, but finding that one will get harder and harder. Iraq isn't Palestine where a whole generation of people have been brought up believing in the rightousness of martyrdom. Saddam isn't paying the next of kin a bounty greater than they'd earn in a lifetime. You've got to be a very, very deep believer in a cause to willingly blow yourself up. Each successful, and unsuccesful, suicide bomber is one fewer person willing to fight. When insurgents do attack Soldiers, and increasingly when they attack the Iraqi Army, they die. Again, fewer people. Intelligence is starting to pay off in successful strikes against insurgent houses. In a raid where 50 people are swept up, 48 of the people could be nothing more than innocent bystanders, or foot soldiers. But those one or two leaders or technicians are very vaulable to have off the streets.

I remember reading about how the Israelis made it a point to target the Palestinian bombmakers. People willing to blow themselves up were a dime a dozen, but the people capable of making stable, quality bombs were few and far between. It seems that amateur, self-taught bombmakers are a very small group. Something about "Natural Selection" taking care of those who weren't any good. So removing one bombmaker via arrest or Stinger missile had the effect of reducing the number of attacks until a replacement could be found. Iran probably can't afford to export all of their terrorist expertise into a losing cause in their neighbor. As long as America can hold our resolve, and the Iraqis resist the peanut gallery cheering for their destruction, the attrition will work to our benefit.

In the end the war is going to be won or lost on the home fronts. Despite the hopes of some, it would take a very exceptional event to happen which would result in the military defeat of the US. Iraq's home front deals with the war every day. Even in the Kurdish north patrols have to be vigilant against intrusion from the insurgents to the South. Here in the US though there is no visible sign of conflict. The economy is good, people aren't unemployed, American Idol keeps polluting the airwaves, it's all quiet on the home front. Many are worried that it's too good. Unless you live near a base, or have family or close friends in the service, you're not affected by the war. Personally, I think a more responsible media would be able to educate and inform people that there is a war on, and do so in a manner that's neither propaganda or jingostic, or urging activly for our defeat. As it is right now the majority of our news sources do a poor job of educating, and are so afraid of appearing to be a "machine" of the government that they push themselves into being useful idiots for the insurgency. It's a lose-lose situation for everyone who we don't want to lose. The citizenry remains uninformed, and the media loses money because people go elsewhere. The only people winning are those we're fighting against. That's sub-optimal.

I don't want a "rah rah, kick em in the knee!" kind of media. Objective reporting of both sides would be nice. Leaving the International Zone and not relying on stringers providing stories straight from the insurgency would be nice as well. Maybe not accepting photographs and stories from people who seem a bit "too" connected to insurgents, or at least questioning their motivations as much as they question that of the administration. Maybe finally putting Helen Thomas out to pasture would be a good start.

I guess my point is, and if you've waited this long for it I apologize and thank you for enduring the pain (love ya mom!), there is good news that only gets reported by the military and by those that follow the military. The other 290 million Americans are left without that bit of knowledge. It's not a good situation.