Goodbye, Uncle David

January 22, 2014

Today, I was greeted with the news that school is delayed until noon, due to snow in Norfolk.  My excitement about a leisurely morning was dashed by news of my Great Uncle David’s death.  I’m again reminded how unprepared any of us are for losing a loved one.  Although Uncle David’s health was failing for years, he always seemed to bounce back.  But, now, he’s gone.

Like many military children, I grew up around the world and was not always connected to my extended family. My Dad’s father passed away when I was about eight. I’ve heard stories of his great character and draw pride from how he was a highly respected member of the community and a great provider for his family.

On my Mom’s side, Uncle David was like a grandfather to me.

Uncle David was a veteran.  In his day, in southwest Georgia, the good jobs were either working on the railroad or going into the military.  He was Army Strong! decades before I was born.

Uncle David’s eyesight was failing as I finished up college and began my career.  Despite this, every time I visited him, I’m certain he could see me.  He could visualize the places I served…Germany, Fort Hood, Fort Bliss…many places he’d served in the ’50s. Understandably, he was excited about the election of Barack Obama. Though blind, he would “watch” the news daily.  After the 2009 Inauguration, I visited Georgia and told Uncle David about my experiences at the White House.  He was proud.  Not a chest-thumping kind of proud, no, he was more sober-spirited and measured in his enthusiasm.

For the past decade, I’ve only seen Uncle David in his home or the hospital. But, that was just fine. His presence set the scene.

Other than my immediate family, Uncle David was my biggest champion and supporter. I drew inspiration from his legacy, but I feel he drew some inspiration for living from the stories of my life.

If I’ve ever learned how to treat older people, it’s because of the example my Parents set by how they treat Uncle David. If I know how to be treated by an older person, it’s because of how Uncle David treated me.

Society doesn’t build monuments for ordinary men like Uncle David, but the esteem and pride he built in me is monumental.

I will miss you, Sir.  And I hope to live a personal and professional life that continues to make you proud.  And, as you would say about driving and life, I’ll be sure to “keep it between the ditches.”

In life, we only have a few people who are permanently fixed in our corner. Take care of them. Tell them you love them. Visit when you can.  Make them proud.

Twenty-three things I’ve learned in my 30s

June 22, 2012

1.) Despite the staggering statistics, opinion leaders and national media will not place the dropout crisis or murder rate high on their agenda. Better to spend money on education than jails, I say.

2.)  At times, silence can resonate louder than words.

3.)  Mentors really, really matter.

4.)  Love is powerful.

5.)  The music I enjoyed in my teens, I still enjoy today. And now I even enjoy music from my parents era.

6.)  Not everybody likes to see people, especially peers, become successful.

7.)  Healthy diet, hydration, and adequate rest are important to reducing stress and boosting mental acuity.

8.) Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” probably just hasn’t lived long enough.  Harsh words from loved ones can leave deep scars.  But, alas, the old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is still true.  Or is it?

9.) Good photographers are born that way. They can just anticipate action and see the shot. But, everyone can take good photos if they simply learn how to use their camera settings and understand the basic principles of photography.

10.) Thank you cards mean a lot.

11.) Parents mean well but you can’t always live out their every dream.

12.) Skill-based volunteering is a great use of time and is invaluable to non-profits and young people.

13.) There is good in some of life’s most challenging situations. It might just take a while to see it.

14.) Senior leaders are typically avid readers.

15.) People across the world have much, much more in common than differences.

16.) The New Testament has great guidance for how to live and treat others.

17.) Quiet time is good for self-reflection.

18.) Be wary of people who always want to take shortcuts in life.

19.) Everything I’d want to watch on TV, I can see with basic cable.

20.) True beauty comes from within and radiates outwards.

21.) Bureaucracy can stifle innovation.

22.) Military officer talent must be cultivated and managed.

23.) The NCAA’s BCS championship needs to be scrapped. Also, athletes should get  a small stipend.

I could go on…but I’ll stop now.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Army or Defense Department.

Beat Street: A song that predicted the future

August 1, 2011

Thanks to the wonderful invention that is XM radio I was listening to Backspin and heard one must be one of the greatest songs of all time:  Beat Street.  Yes, the same Beat Street title track from the 1984 film.  The first versus from the song primarily deal with the movie’s lead character Ramon a New York graffiti artist.

But, my primary purpose of this post is to illustrate how history repeats itself and that Melle Mel is a modern-day prophet.  Did he predict the current economic crisis?  The Global War on Terror?  Famine?  Fracking?  Facebook?  Hmmm…just click on the links on the lyrics.

On unemployment…Note: This song was written when Black unemployment was about 18%...nearly the rate 28 years later

You search for justice and what do you find?
You find just us on the unemployment line
You find just us sweatin from dawn to dusk
There’s no justice, it’s, huh, just us


A newspaper burns in the sand
And the headlines say ‘Man Destroys Man’
Extra extra, read all the bad news
On the war for peace that everybody would lose
The rise and fall, the last great empire
The sound of the whole world caught on fire
The ruthless struggle, the desperate gamble
The game that left the whole world in shambles
The cheats, the lies, the alibis
And the foolish attempts to conquer the sky
Lost in space, and what is it worth?
Huh, the President just forgot about Earth
Spendin’ multi-billions and maybe even trillions
The cost of weapons ran in the zillions
There’s gold in the street and there’s diamond under feet
And the children in Africa don’t even eat
Flies on their faces, they’re livin’ like mice
And their houses even make the ghetto look nice
Huh, the water tastes funny, it’s forever too sunny
And they work all month and don’t make no money
A fight for power, a nuclear shower
A people shout out in the darkest hour
Sights unseen and voices unheard
And finally the bomb gets the last word
Christians killed Muslims and Germans killed Jews
And everybody’s bodies are used and abused
Huh, minds are poisoned and souls are polluted
Superiority complex is deep rooted
Leeches and lices, and people got prices
Egomaniacs control the self-righteous
Nothin’ is sacred and nothin’ is pure
So the revelation of death is our cure

Hitler and Caesar, Custer and Reagan, Napoleon, Castro, Mussolini and Began, Genghis Khan and the Shah of Iran,

Men spilled the blood of the weaker man.
Peoples in terror, the leaders made a error
And now they can’t even look in the mirror

Cause we gotta suffer while things get rougher
And that’s the reason why we got to get tougher
So learn from the past and work for the future
And don’t be a slave to no computer
Cause the children of Man inherit the land
And the future of the world is in your hands
So just throw your hands in the air
And wave ‘em like you just don’t care
And if you believe that you’re the future
Scream it out and say oh yeah (Oh yeah)
Oh yeah (Oh yeah)
Beat Street Breakdown, rrrrhaa!

Army needs Social Media help…from civilians?

June 9, 2011

Today, there was a great article in Wired.  It was about the Army’s proposal to hire Social Media experts for Afghanistan operations.  This was not a Wikileak; it is a real request for proposal for civilian public relations experts.  (The request is also for well-qualified Dari and Pashtu speakers to participate in the Social Media mission–thumbs up to getting strong linguist for this program.)

I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.

Heck, you can read about the Department of Defense spending $384.4 million on Strategic Communications in 2011 or about the billion plus spent on Information Operations for the past few years in a report by the Center for International Media Assistance.  For those keeping score…$384.4 million is enough dough to pay tuition for 50,000 high school graduates to attend college this fall.  The Politico reported that the DOD actually requested $988 million for communications funding for 2010…it didn’t pass.

The reason why this Afghanistan Social Media decision pains me so much is because the minimum qualifications that the Army is looking for–bachelor’s degree and Secret security clearance— is equal or even less than the qualifications of the 150+ public affairs officers we have on active duty.  And of those public affairs officers, several of them have earned Army-funded graduate degrees from top schools like Georgetown the official grad school for Army public affairs officers, UNC-Chapel Hill, Middle Tennessee State, and USC’s Annenberg School. And we even send officers and sergeants to work at Google each year.

Are none of them good enough to run a Social Media program in Afghanistan?  Heck, who’s running these seemingly successful sites right now?  See them here, here, and here.

If you’re still reading this post you’ve probably come to conclusion that I’m courageous or crazy…perhaps both.

Don’t get me wrong here, I agree there is a great need for continued investment in online communications and engaging audiences domestic and international through Social Media. I just think this should be done by training people already in uniform to accomplish these goals.  Really, by the time most photos, tweets, and blog posts are approved by the layers of strategic communications folks at big headquarters in Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar, it’s a bit too late or too far removed from much of the populace we are trying to influence–many of them are illiterate or don’t have access to the internet.  Meanwhile, the terrorists and Taliban types are able to cause mayhem and make it go viral because they post from the point of origin–often on mobile phones.Soldiers online

I propose the Army purchases smart phones and commercial internet for their public affairs staffs at the brigade combat team level and arm them with the same communications tools as the terrorists.

Last time I checked, a 3G iPhone runs about $200 $49.  If you bought one for every 100 troops in Afghanistan (about one per company-sized unit), the total costs would be about $200,000  $49,000 + usage plans.  The troops already know how to use smart phones & Facebook.  After developing a policy for what to post and battle drills for when to post, I assure you a positive and tangible impact will be made in our information war.

Where there’s no cell coverage…use a Bgan antenna.

Ideally, we’d shift to training more Afghan journalists so they can tell the story of their country and of their security forces through their own lens.  Developing skills for local reporters should be long-term goal.

Well, I’ve said my $0.02.  I’m not critical of the mission, just the method.  I believe we have people, Soldiers & Department of the Army Civilians, who are ready, willing, and able to accomplish the communications goals for the Afghan War.  As an added bonus, after Army folks complete this task they will retain the experience for future operations.  Seems like a cent-sible solution to me.

Honest two-way communication is the best to build relationships and influence people.  I believe in the Defense Information School’s motto:  Strength through Truth

I figure I can’t get fired for this post, however, I might just get orders to Afghanistan. I’m ok with that.

DISCLAIMER:  Views expressed here are the authors own and not necessarily the views of the Army or Department of Defense. Nor is the post an official statement of the U.S. Army.  Just one guys opinion.

Hyundai’s Missed opportunity

December 30, 2010

Ahh ha!  Just as I hoped Hyundai is going to market the new Sonata Hybrid during the Sun Bowl in El Paso on Dec. 31.  It’s odd the local dealer’s website has 2010 models on the landing page, however, sales are up.  That’s a benefit of being the host city for the Sun Bowl.  Notre Dame vs. Univ. of Miami.  (Watch on CBS at 2:00pm Eastern)

They’ve filmed commercials touting the Sonata Hybrid’s technological advances.  The vehicle goes on sale in January 2011, according to Hyundai officials.

“The spot makes a point about how all technology evolves.  Hybrid Sonata capitalizes on the learnings of hybrid models that have come before it, and advances the technology so that it’s practical and affordable for a broader consumer audience – not just early adopters,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America.

You can watch the commercial here.

Surprisingly all of the Hyundai folks I’ve spoken to in El Paso this week know almost nothing about the Sonata Hybrid.  Perhaps, it’s because Hybrids are predicted to be a small portion of the company’s aggregate sales.  According to auto supersite sales of Hybrids were down 8.1% in 2010.

Either way, I suspected this day would come and go and Hyundai would miss out on having it’s first Sonata Hybrid sale on the last day of 2010.

Think about it.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid blues

December 14, 2010

I hoped to be the first El Pasoan, Texas, and possible American, to own a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. My plan was brilliant and a win-win for Hyundai. You see, Hyundai is hosting the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 in El Paso. This years game pits Notre Dame vs. University of Miami, better know as “The ‘U’.”

Anyhow, I wanted to buy a Sonata Hybrid and have it presented/delivered to me as part of the game festivities. There are hundreds of Soldiers from my post participating in Sun Bowl activities. I’d wear a nice Army uniform and could drive off with a bunch of Soldiers in the car. It’d make for great tv:  war vet, wears blues, goes “blue” w/ Sonata Hybrid.

No Blue Drive for Christmas

But, alas, the executives at Hyundai have dashed my dreams. Actually, the probably never heard of my big idea. Sadly, they’ve decided to not have the Sonata Hybrid available until Jan. ’11. No tax credit for purchase.

This despite the official Hyundai USA website still claiming the car will be sold in “Q4 2010“:

SONATA HYBRID: Better technology makes for a better planet.

Hyundai continues their commitment to being the most fuel-efficient automaker on the planet with the first ever hybrid from Hyundai….

Available Q4 2010

Really, Hyundai, really?

Instead of Blue Drive…I just have the blues.

Can’t you at least make an exception for one vehicle to be sold on national TV on Dec. 31. I’m ready to buy.

11 impacts of the 2010 mid-term elections

November 8, 2010

Just my hunches…No particular sequence…impacts of many of these will take effect years from now…

1.)  The dominance of the GOP in state legislature elections will have a significant impact on redrawing congressional districts based on the 2010 Census.  Expect less southern democrats as a result.  Gerrymander will become a household word.

“In gerrymandered election districts, the voters don’t choose their politicians – the politicians choose their voters!”

2.)  When democrats re-take the house, whenever that occurs, there will be an unprecedented number of CBC members as committee chairs.

3.)  The 2010 re-election map for President Obama will focus on the Western State Strategy plus Pennsylvania/Virginia/North Carolina.  The groundwork for this was laid with the 2008 DNC Convention in Denver.  The fight for 270 will rely less and less on the tired narratives of Ohio and Florida.

4.)  Perhaps Stephanie Cutter or Karen Finney will become WH Press Secy.???

5.)  The U.S. will take a more isolationist approach to foreign policy.  Wars and foreign aid cost lots of money.  Tougher to justify during economic hardship in the U.S.  Also, xenophobic rancor seems to be more acceptable than ever.

6.)  Entitlements reform will result in raising the Social Security Age.  Though this probably won’t take effect until 2030.

7.)  There will be more incentives for nuclear power plants; however, less federal incentives for consumer purchase of hybrids and electric cars.

8.)  Political parvenus will continue to dominate the media.  The media will continue to fixate on two of the eight elements of news: conflict & oddity.

9.)  All types of federal appointments will continue to be blocked.

10.)  Spanish-speaking media will become more and more important for federal elections.

11.)  Despite the nearly 14,000 murders annually of Americans by other mostly Christian, English speaking Americans, none of the leaders in Washington will make domestic crime prevention a major priority.  Not to mention the 20,000 plus killed by drunk drivers.  Sad.

***Like everything else on this blog…these views expressed are my own and not necessarily the positions of the DOD or Army…thanks for reading***

Pennyshaker rocks Wabi-Sabi in Petersburg

July 2, 2010

During a recent night out in historic Old Towne Petersburg, Virginia–20 minutes south of Richmond on I-95–I had dinner at Andrade’s.  Later, I wandered over to the Wabi-Sabi where I heard a local band was playing.   They are the self-proclaimed “hot-spot of Old Towne…” and I agree with their assessment.

As I approached the spot, along the storefronts of Bollingbrook Street, I could see a few happy patrons leaving.  A few other were entering.  I took a few pics along the way.

Ticia Carter lead singer

Pennyshaker performs at Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi serves sushi and other food.  I don’t eat sushi, however, I know a few sushi eaters who swear by the exceptional fare served at Wabi-Sabi.  I’ll take them at their word.

The Richmond-based band Pennyshaker was playing in the basement.  Their lead singer, Ticia Carter, belted out notes that were a cross between Jill ScottMaiyshaJocelyn Brown.  I’m not  a music critic but the goosebumps on my arm confirmed that this woman could sang (sic)!   A multi-cultural, adult crowd tapped feet and bobbed heads throughout the evening’s performance.  Sometimes singing along; always applauding.  Pennyshaker’s last set included soul stirring renditions of “Kiss” by Prince and “Roses” (Caroline) by OutKast.  Folks flooded the dance floor and begged for an encore.  Good times, good times.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the drummer–dude is true showman.

Pennyshaker moves the crowd

Pennyshaker moves the crowd

I plan on editing and posting my own video later.  For now see clips of Pennyshaker here and here.  Check them out again at Wabi-Sabi on July 30,2010.

I guess Ticia Carter is doing double-duty with an American Reggae band.  Congrats!

7Up Diplomacy

November 5, 2009

My days in Iraq are somewhat unpredictable.  In fact, I think it’s a good day if there are new surprises and challenges.  I am fortunate to work in a command climate that embraces media and values the role of reporters in telling the story of the American Soldier.

Recently, we embedded a reporter from McClatchy News for about a week.  Like all embeds–particularly the ones who spend all their time in Baghdad or the U.S.–my goal is to get them a good dose of what Soldiers experience day-to-day.  This runs the gamut from garrison to tactical operations.

So I arranged to take the McClatchy reporter on a patrol with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment “Steel Tigers” (I like their nickname).  This patrol, like all the patrols we have through Iraqi cities, was conducted with the Iraqi Security Forces.  In this instance, it was a battalion operating under the 40th Iraqi Army Brigade.

It was night…patrol brief was conducted…strapped into 5-point harness in the back of MRAPs..ride out…strain to look out blast proof glass, wishing we could stop in town at a corner were a group of military aged males has assembled for socialization…not to arrest anybody, it’s 2009 not 2003…I wish we could stop and say “Shaaquu Maakauu?”…no stopping though.  Not allowed.  Might not be safe.  Heck, stopping is a silly idea.  I wouldn’t randomly crash a block party in the states.  Dropping in on a gathering in Iraq with a 10′ tall, 60,000 lbs. armored truck, and full-kit probably wouldn’t ingratiate me with the locals.  Silly me.

Fast forward…

…so we end up at an Iraqi Army checkpoint southeast of Nasiriyah.  Walk inside and are met by a proud Iraqi captain.  Iraqis tend to be quite hospitable, regardless of their lot in life.  So he offers us little 500 ML cans of 7UP.

The captain work and sleeps in this trailer most of the time.  Though, like most Iraq Army soldiers he goes on “janzaa” (leave) every few weeks to visit his family.

Sometimes you see the oddest bits of Western culture in Iraq.  The sleeping side of the trailer was dominated by a poster of the   “ideal” suburban home.  I really wanted to say, “Dude, what’s up with the poster?”  But, I couldn’t manage to find the right way to ask, so I passed.  The American dream lives on.

After establishing my legitimacy to bring media–many military people are wary of media–to his checkpoint we had a few minutes of social talk.  Connecting culturally is important when dealing with Iraqi counterparts.  The captain led off the discussion with movies and politics.  He equates the recent uptick in movies with predominately black casts to the Obama presidency.  He likes black movies.  He likes Obama.  Not sure what to make of my phenotype, he asked if I was “Basrawi.”  This has happened to me before.  The majority of the world are people of color, and in Iraq there’s a certain kinship I’ve been met with by many swarthy southern Iraqis.

This captain had served in the Army under Saddam’s regime.  He was based in Amarah in 2003 and decided to bug out after 15 consecutive days of bombing.  According to him, the outcome of OIF would have been different if the Coalition didn’t use so many planes.  I disagree.  Our tanks and artillery would have blasted away the rag-tag Iraqi Army.  At anyrate, this was just simple banter from former enemies who are now allies.  The Iraqi Army will do well to promote this captain.  We went to check out his troops.  They were disciplined, motivated, and vigilant.  A safe ride home and it was mission complete.

I hope to visit this captain again, sometime.  He is a brother-in-arms.

Bloggers block

August 25, 2009

Well, I don’t have much to say tonight.  I hope to get on a better schedule so I keep this blog a bit more active.  So what would you like to see me write about?  Anything?

10 things I can’t do from my desk

July 31, 2009

Not much changed since the last post. From my work desk in Iraq, I’m still restricted from engaging audiences on social media sites. Despite yet another article indicating that Social Media engagement is a priority for the Army.

Here’s a list of things I can’t do from my work desk that the DOD wants me to do–though not from my desk, I suppose:

1.) Download the Army’s official design templates for Web sites and Social Media

2.) Listen to the DOD Bloggers’ Roundtable–by the way you should listen to the BRT on August 4, 11:00 a.m. EST for an update on the Advisory and Assistance Brigade mission COMPLETE

3.) Post on my brigade’s blog

4.) Post tweets on my brigade’s Twitter feed @4_1AD

5.) Interact with the over 2,300 Fans who support the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division on Facebook

6.) Visit any of the Social Media sites run by my higher headquarters MNC-I, CENTCOM

Our goal at Multinational Corps-Iraq is to maximize our use of Social Media to inform you about our missions and the people who accomplish them. We’re striving to create a dialogue with you. We will do that by sharing news, information, insights and conversation with the people who support our organization and operations in Iraq. –MNC-I

7.) Conduct spot media assessment on a number of different Web sites. Cookies, schmookies

8.) Read any blogs that are not on a .mil domain

9.) Share videos, photos, and audio products with others because access to USB ports is blocked…I wonder how civilian news agencies operate? Do they require reporters to use personal equipment and run down to the local coffee shop to access the internet to file stories?

10.) Upload videos produced by Army broadcasters to DVIDS via FTP–blocked

As a Soldier we improvise and adapt where possible. However, all the 100mph tape and 550 cord can’t help me access Social Media.

*venting complete*

Oh, if I’ve missed your phone call at my desk, it’s because I’m at the MWR internet center down the street writing this blog post. Sorry.

Update: Looks like the debate over Web 2.0 access is at the highest levels of the DoD. The Pentagon’s top public affairs executive is an active participant and proponent for Social Networking.

Social Media blocked on the battlefield

July 1, 2009

Working public affairs in a combat zone brings new challenges daily.  I love my job because I get to tell the story of the American Soldier in Iraq.  Specifically, in 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

However, lately, I’ve been really flummoxed at my inability to access Social Media sites.  I feel like I can’t, know I can do a better job as a brigade public affairs officer if I had access to sites that the Secretary of Defense wants me to use.

Herein lies my professional frustration.  The Secretary of Defense has said on numerous occasions that public affairs officers need to reach audiences through social media.  You can read various statements here, here, and video here.

“Public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals.  It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaida is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America.” -SecDef Robert Gates, Nov. 2007

The newly appointed Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs recently said about social media, “It’s not just better one-way communication; it’s better two-way communication. It’s not just us reaching people; it is them reaching us, too.”

And he has a twitter feed on the official DOD Web site.

And almost a year ago Iwrote about the Secretary of the Army encouraging military blogging.

Before deploying my brigade established a presence on several social media sites.  Several are registered on the Army’s official social media directory.

After lengthy days at the office or covering events, I update the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division Facebook page on the SniperHill internet in my containerized housing unit…it connects at Slowsky-like 8kbps and I pay $88/month.  The money is not the issue, I consider it a personal expense for occassional professional use, however, I could do much more if I had access at my desk—just like the PAOs & other Soldiers in the states.  Access the senior leaders say I should have.  Access that keeps family members informed.

I feel bad when my brigade commander asks me “Hey, PAO, when are we going to start the brigade blog?”  I have to give him the penguin salute because I can’t effectively launch it without access to monitor the activites or have a truly interactive environment.

For those who think…“stop whining, back in WWII we didn’t have that internet stuff”…I dare you to look at our Facebook page and see what the moms, dads, and spouses say when they see a photo of their Soldier or images of where the special person works and lives.  Now, you will see the power of social media.  I’m happy to “whine” on their behalf.

Recently, the Army allowed access to these sites from bases in the states.  That’s nice, however, when a Soldier can go home to their family at night there is less of a need for social media—except the fan, follower, subscriber base that’s built in garrison can be exploited during a deployment.

Meanwhile, we deployed PAOs are blocked, blocked, blocked by the network managers.  (Except for General Odierno’s PAO who updates his Fan page daily).

For my signal friends, try explaining the classic “bandwidth” argument to the families of deployed Soldiers.  Really, how much bandwidth could about five public affairs Soldiers per brigade effect things—is our networking situation really hinging on five guys uploading photos to flickr and videos on YouTube?  Not to mention the enemy is still beating us to the punch on getting out the story.

I just want do my job as a tell the story of the American Soldier and fight enemy propaganda with truth.  I post on the brigade’s page for the Soldier on guard duty who lives in a tent and seldom has internet access and may not want it–but, his family & friends still want to know how he’s doing.  Without social media access I feel like I have the proverbial a knife in an information gunfight.

DISCLAIMER:  I have submitted a waiver for access that is going through approval channels.  And, of course, views expressed here are my own.  Not the DOD, Army, or my unit.  Hope I don’t get in trouble for this posting. *fingers crossed*

If you’ve read this far, thanks for your interest. Please help us reach our goal of 4,000 Fans on Facebook to represent each Soldiers from the Highlander Brigade deployed to Iraq

Year ahead in southern Iraq

May 24, 2009

Clearly, I haven’t posted in a while.  That’s because I’m super busy in my job as a brigade public affairs officer.  My primary base is Contingency Operating Base Adder in Iraq’s Dhi Qar Province.  Though I will spend time in Muthanna and Maysan province too.  For those worried…no, I’m not violating OPSEC…you won’t know my specific movement times or travel methods.

Days here are busy.  From my initial impressions dealing with the Iraqi media will be interesting.  There are language and cultural barriers.  Every word in English does not translate directly to Arabic and vice versa.  So context is always important.

I live near the Zigguart of Ur.  We, the U.S. Military, recently turned over control of the ancient site to Iraq’s Ministry of Antiquities.

You can see we are using Social Media to stay connected with our supporters at these links:

Facebook:  4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division FAN Page

Read an article about our social media efforts in the El Paso Times here.

So for the year ahead I hope to share the experiences of Soldiers in the Highlander Brigade and explain our collaboration with Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the Gov’t of Iraq, and Iraqi Security Forces.  Stay tuned…

The Major’s new clothes: Rapid Fielding Initiative

April 10, 2009

Preparations for deployment continue.  This week I was issued two car trunks full of Army gear.  I’m impressed by the efficiency of the Fort Bliss Central Issue Facility (CIF–clothing warehouse).  In & out in less than one hour.

Later in the week I participated in the Rapid Fielding Initiative and received the latest individual equipment and clothing for the upcoming deployment.  Of note is the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) this replaces the IBAS that I wore in Iraq a few years ago.  Just trying it on I feel far more confident in this system.  It’s a bit more comfortable and offers more protection (52 sq. inches to be exact) particularly around the ribcage.  Read an article about the IOTV hereUnofficial Video of a Soldier demonstrating the IOTV to his German Shepard.  You will see the quick release about the 1:30 mark.

Another item was the Army Combat Shirt.  This flame-resistant, lightweight breathable shirt is designed to be worn under the IOTV in lieu of the ACU coat & t-shirt.  Brilliant!  Soldiers in my brigade were issued two each.  I wish I had four.  Oh well.  The last time I was in Iraq I was only issued two sets of Desert Camoflague Uniforms (DCUs).  The green BDUs worked just was well in the desert.  Rest assured you won’t see me sporting the ACS with jeans in airports and shopping malls. (Note to self:  Find that link)  Nice wikipedia entry about the ACS here.

North of the Border

April 2, 2009

After a harrowing landing in 40mph winds at the El Paso Int’l Airport, I’m here.  Fort Bliss.  Kudos to the crew of American Airlines Flight #555.

Lovely location.  Nestled in the shadow of North Franklin Peak, the weather is lovely in the spring.

North Franklin Peak viewed from Ft. Bliss lodging

North Franklin Peak viewed from Ft. Bliss lodging

Real Estate here is dirt cheap.  A dollar goes a long way.  Gas, today, was $1.96 for regular.

El Paso is a long way from Washington, D.C. (1,965 miles according to Google maps).  But I find it interesting that many of the streets that run East-West are named after presidents.

Here is a handy reference list for newcomers to Fort Bliss.  The post’s wikipedia entry is here.

I’m staying in the post’s hotel.  Free Internet, swimming pool, and continental breakfast until 9:30am.  It’s conveniently located withing walking distance of the MWR ticket office and Hertz rental car.  The base PX and Commissary are nearby too.

In-processing for officers is efficient.  You will need a car or someone to drive you around.  But many of the functions are in/around Building 505.  Be sure to have addresses of family to update SGLI and registration info to register a POV or personal weapon.

No worries…I won’t be making any forays into Juarez, Mexico.  Hope they’re safe from drug gangs South of the Border.