Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Recruiting Stories 2009

As I've said before this has been a year of lackluster reporting on recruiting activities. With Mission Success being a near foregone conclusion based on the two month head start USAREC had for RY2009, even reporting on recruiting improprieties fell to the wayside. Whether it's because years of ethics training paid off, the surplus of applicants reduced the pressures to play in the dark gray, or recruiters just stopped saying stupid things to walk-ins I don't know.

These are in no particular order.

Mission Success.

Just go to the DoD news release site, get the monthly breakdown, and look towards the middle of the month. Each month you'll see the report of all branches meeting their goals. This is the only place you can go to see it since it's not like it was receiving the press coverage mission failure received back in 2005.

Recruiter Suicides.

Tragic. Four recruiters in nearly as many years from the same battalion. The only battalion with more than one suicide in that period. It resulted in a change of leadership at the battalion level and sensing sessions with a congressman. Brigades and Battalions throughout the command started mandating, and enforcing, leaves, days off, family functions, work hours, and all the things on the "SFC B Wishlist" I had when I'd be working on hour 4 of P1 at 2000h. Whether this commitment to Soldier welfare will extend past the days of 10% unemployment and mission success in the +100% range I don't know. I have my doubts, but it's a welcome change for those who wear the recruiting badge.

HRAPs murdered.

THe death of PVT William Long and and the serious injury of PVT Quinton Ezeagwula at the hands of Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad outside a recruiting station in Little Rock was buried by the news of the murder of abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller. Since that day Muhammad has stated his motive for the attack was hatred of what Americans were doing to Muslims. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In my mind this was simply the inevitable result of how some elements of the public view and treat recruiters. Recruiting stations are bombed and vandalized. Recruiting vehicles damaged. Recruiters threatened and attacked. For almost every city in the US the recruiting station is the community's only connection to the military. If you read the news feeds from papers across the country you see that, in towns across the country, the comings and goings at the local recruiting station are news. New company commanders, departing veteran recruiters getting interviewed. While that level of attention and support might not be the exact norm, for the most part recruiters are, at the very least, tolerated.

Does Code Pink protesting a USMC officer recruiting office mean they're going to shoot them? Of course not. They're in Berkley. They're not allowed to have guns there.

I kid.

Be vigilant out there recruiters. Practice basic Force Protection. Vary the routes and schedules, check for suspicious activities. Don't be a target.

Recruiter Deals with Recruit's Death.

In my opinion this is one of the most powerful stories about recruiting this year. Unfortunately the Salt Lake Tribune has taken the story down and archived it. A copy and paste version of it is available online, but it's on a counter-recruitment site and I'm not in the mood to give them the traffic when their only comment is suspecting it of being propaganda.

The recruiter is a new Soldier's first first line leader. You worry about them. Usually it's worries that they're going to do something stupid and fail to ship, but you do worry about them. You contact them to check the block in ARISS or Recruiter Zone, but also because it's what you do with your Soldiers. To lose one, especially one of the motivated ones who wanted nothing more to serve, would be crushing. I still check the casualty notices to see the names. If it's ever one of my recruits it will be a painful loss.

Well, those are stories as I see them. You had the recruiter doing wicked stupid with forged PC. That was about the only recruiting impropriety story I noticed make it to any level of news. But it didn't have the news-bit perfect moments of someone on tape giving a fake high school name to use. So it went no where.

Hope everyone has a great New Years Eve and makes it into 2010 safely.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Go F Yourself Continental

Continental Airlines, you can take your $20 baggage fee and pound sand.

I'm at IAH and headed towards security. I traveled light taking only my Samsonite carry-on. Now, this is the freaking standard rolling bag that like 97% of people who fly own. In a real plane you can get like three of these in an overhead bin (I was on an Embraer 145 for this flight so I knew the bag would need to be gate-checked). The guy ahead of my has a similar sized bag. As he walks up to the entrance to the security roped off area a pair of Continental employees step up and ask him to put his bag into the little "Does your bag fit here?" thingys. He places it there, and with the tiniest bit of effort, I'm talking he gives it the same push you'd have to give a bag to put it into an overhead bin, it goes right in.

The Continental person tells him he'll need to check it because it's too large.

I'm dumbfounded. I've seen, literally, thousands of people with the same bag do the same thing and never have a single issue. I look at my bag and realize there is no way I'll get mine through there. I got clothing for Christmas and it made my bag slightly larger than when I left Eau Claire. So I head to check my bag, not very happy but it's not a fight I have a chance of winning.


Twenty freaking dollars.

It all made sense to me the moment I saw that. The airline had people posted there to make anyone who could have possibly had a bag even a fraction of an inch too large for the little bin-guide to make them give $20 for each bag. I can't imagine how many people this screwed over. A family of four could easily see an extra $40-80 in fees for their trip.

I don't care if I need to fly through Denver and Vegas to get to Houston from Minneapolis. I'm flying Southwest.

Look! A Shark!

So, apparently airline security hopped on their water skis and decided to imitate the Fonz. I'm going to go ahead and state something which I thought was apparent, but maybe it wasn't. If enough people are willing to kill themselves in order to destroy an aircraft, eventually one will succeed. The couple inches of aluminum and insulation which protect the people in an aircraft from the below-freezing temperature and oxygen-deprived air will not withstand a truly dedicated assailant. As we have seen with Flight 93, The Shoe Bomber, and now the flight to Detroit, the best defense are the people at the point of attack.

Yes. It was a flight originating from Europe. But they're following the TSA's idiotic rules about what can and can not be brought on a flight. I can't say that I'm thrilled a guy whose name was on a watch list was able to board an international flight, while carrying an incendiary device. If we're going to inconvenience every 18-40 year old man with the name Abdul Mohammed, can someone at least give a pat down to the guy who is actually supposed to be checked out a little bit more?

I have no doubt that a lot of this is perception bias. Or at least I hope it is. It's been 8 years since 9-11. Us teeming masses only hear about the failures of the security apparatus. The times when someone manages to sneak something in they shouldn't have and tries to use it. Luckily they've been unsuccessful each time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

The second pot of coffee is brewing, the sausage is cooking and the yule cake is awaiting it's sugary icing. Christmas is upon the Momma SFC B house.

I hope that everyone has a merry Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Past Month

It's been almost a month since moving. Hasn't been the best of times, but it could have been worse. While driving to Eau Claire I managed to pulverize a canine. Don't know if it was a dog or a coyote or a wolf. It was pretty messed up (I had to stop and check to make sure I didn't kill someone's dog). Unfortunately, so was my car. I spent my first three weeks here in Wisconsin driving a rental, which made me appreciate The Ultimate Driving Machine all the more. Turns out that Eau Claire is not exactly known for having European (or Japanese) luxury vehicles, so the repair process took about twice as long as it should have. And now the turn signals and the windshield wipers don't seem to be working as before.

I've been on leave this whole time so I'm sporting a rather full goatee, but it will be gone Sunday evening. I have a lot of gray. A lot.

Eau Claire is quite... agricultural. Lots of dairy farms and industry to support it. It is largest city in the area, happily situated midway between Minneapolis/St. Paul and La Crosse, WI. I have not exactly found a lot to do. So I've been going and seeing the occasional movie. Or staying in and watching a movie.

A Law Abiding Citizen. Best of the movies I've seen lately. I saw it while I was in Phoenix, but towards the end so I'm lumping it into my "Things Seen While Transitioning" accumulation. I really liked it, up until the end. I can't help but feel that the ending of the movie was something tacked on because of test audience reactions. It felt too "neat" and it really cheapened the motivations of the title character. As I've said before, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for a lot, however it has to be believable within the confines of the reality the entertainer is presenting to me. I am willing to believe that a super-intelligent anti-hero would prepare and execute a decade-long plan for revenge. A revenge which requires several improbable things to work. I'm not willing to believe that he would leave his Achilles Heel completely unprotected, without a single system set-up to warn him of a possible security breach. This is a guy who built his own remote-control machine-gun and missile platform out of parts that were untraceable back to him. Yet he didn't have a security system on a store front in a bad part of town. Plus he missed out on the chance to take the sweetest of revenges by actually bringing down the whole system he loathed.

Ninja Assassin. It had everything the title promised. Ninjas and Assassins. And a lot of them. Over-the-top violence and a giant, titanic, epic deus ex machina. If I had seen it in the afternoon, at matinee prices (or if the theaters here had military discounts) I'd have liked it a lot more.

2012. I felt bad giving away important information about Law-Abiding Citizen. It was a good movie, even if it lost me at the end. I feel no such thing towards 2012. 2012 is horrible. It is a movie which insults you for every second of its 158 minute duration. That is 9480 seconds of being insulted. Neutrinos turning the Earth's core into a microwave? A tectonic event causing a 20,000 wall of water? The eruption of the volcano which is Yellowstone Park not being able to outrun an RV driving on improved-surface roads? World leaders, people who had spent the previous three years dooming billions of their citizens to death through their silence, were so overcome by the emotional, last second, pleas of The Operative from Serenity that they risked their entire operation, the whole reason they did what they did, because he said it was the right thing to do? Hell, some of those leaders were from governments with freaking elections between the start of their involvement in the plot of the movie (2010) and the conclusion. I'm expected to believe that they were all reelected? Hundreds of thousands of the most extremely wealthy people on Earth were involved in this, and no one could figure out why trillions of dollars were being spent on some dam in China? No one except some crackpot living in a tent in a National Park? The adorable family who nearly doomed 100,000 people to a watery death because of their colossal stupidity are welcomed into the fold instead of taken out back and shot. Why? Because one is a crappy author.

The worst thing about the movie wasn't the horrible science or physics. It wasn't the incredibly implausible plot or the impossible human reaction to it. It was that they killed the main character's ex-wife's boyfriend.

In the movie John Cusak's character is a self-centered boob who had no regard for his family. He wrote a book no one liked and he was so self-centered while writing the book it alienated his wife and kids. Even post-divorce he is a failure of a dad, forgetting important things about his children; including long-planned vacations together. He is, from all information presented, a loathsome human being. Of course his ex-wife, recovering from being married to such an awful person, finds love with a successful professional, a doctor, who is very devoted to her, is loved by her kids, and is an all-around decent guy.

How much does it have to suck to be the guy who has to die so John Cusak can get the girl?

This character spends the bulk of the movie saving everyone. And he is even denied the dignity of a noble death. He doesn't get killed by sacrificing himself to save the woman and kids he loves. He dies because he slips and falls.

I hated 2012.

Hancock. I just saw Hancock today. Great concept ruined by the whole "timeless love story from the Gods" bit. Seriously. How many people would have enjoyed a well-done movie about a man with superhero powers, who is hated by those who he saves and protects, and so he becomes an alcoholic? The director was given Charlize Theron and decided he just had to play with her. It took what could have been a great movie and made it terribly disappointing.