DEMOCRATS.COM'S TROOP NEWS for Sept. 25
Compiled by Cheryl Seal
MOTE: For past issues of Troop News, go to http://Democrats.com and put TROOP NEWS (don't enclose in quotes) into the "compass" search bar on the upper left hand margin.)
National Guard Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan on the Job during Ivan
Emergency officials at the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness continue to work around the clock, as Hurricane Ivan threatens to beat down the Gulf coast. One of the biggest agencies here is the Louisiana National Guard. Right now 1800 guardsmen have been activated. Their mission is to fan out across the state and handle everything from security in evacuated towns to search and rescue missions.
They're soldiers who wear many hats. Being a member of the National Guard means at any time you could be called to protect the U.S. overseas, your hometown in times of emergency or both. "Many of our soldiers who have been deployed have just returned from federal duty and are now doing homeland security. We're very proud of them," says Major General Bennett Landreneau.
People like Denham Springs native Mike McNaughton. Last year in Afghanistan, he stepped on a land mine. The blast blew his right leg off. But McNaughton said the thought of dying never crossed his mind. "That's not my mentality - not how I was trained. You keep on going until you can't go anymore," says McNaughton.
Keep on going - he certainly did. McNaughton not only lived, but managed to master his prosthetic leg so well he's now an avid runner. President Bush was so impressed with the Louisiana hero, he invited McNaughton to the White House to jog a few laps. McNaughton is now training to run the New York City Marathon.
McNaughton says, "Going through that experience, I now take advantage of every opportunity. I don't worry about the little things - only the big things." McNaughton is also one of the guardsmen preparing Louisiana for Hurricane Ivan. To some, that might seem like a dull assignment compared to Afghanistan, but not for McNaughton. He says, "You're doing something where you're helping people, not just pushing paperwork. Plus, you get to wear the uniform - which is something I really wanted to do."
"Brain Rangers" Try to Head Mental Breakdowns Off the Pass
Intelihealth: "Add long working days in 110 degree heat with the threat of death at the hands of insurgents. Subtract families, friends and spouses the troops are separated from by thousands of miles. Multiply by a yearlong tour. The result, sometimes, is battle fatigue.
When the going gets tough and the tough in the U.S. military can't get going, they call in the "Brain Rangers" -- an Army combat stress company that keeps an eye on troops' mental health in the field.
"Basically, we heal wounds that don't bleed," said Maj. David Rabb, commander of the 785th Medical Company. "Our job is to get people who aren't functioning back to duty." The Brain Rangers are successful the vast majority of the time, helping troops manage everything from the loss of another soldier to dreaded "Dear John" letters - when spouses back home write to say they want to split up.
Rabb's 85-member company consists of Army psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers. They used to cover Iraq alone, but a surge in fighting earlier this year prompted the military to complement them with two 42-member detachments in June.
With a skeleton staff keeping watch over the mental well-being of about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, four-man teams move constantly around the "theater," focusing on areas where they're most needed. "
Send in the Vets to Help the Future Vets
The IDEA of brain rangers is a good one - like Sidney on M.A.S.H. But expecting only about 100 rangers to cover the 20,000 - 50,000 (conservative estimates) soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan already showing PTSD symptoms is insanity (gonna have to send in brain ranger brain rangers!). A better idea would be to get reps from Vietnam Veterans and Gulf War I vets to give company medics and/or leaders briefings in how to organize and lead PTSD rap groups. If past experience is any guide, I bet many of these vets would gladly volunteer their time to help get groups organized (coaching over email or phone) and be on "hotline standby." Let's face it, no one can help soldiers in the field more than other soldiers who "been there done that."
Inspiring 'Co-Pilot' Dog Vittles Immortalized at Air Force Museum
by Rob Bardua
Air Force Museum Public Affairs
DAYTON, Ohio (AFPN) -- A parachute made for a dog that flew alongside pilots during the Berlin Airlift was recently added to the Berlin Airlift Exhibit at the U.S. Air Force Museum here. The parachute, donated by Clarence Steber, was worn by his boxer, Vittles, during their flights on C-47s and C-54s to help deliver food to West Berlin. The city had been blocked by the Soviet Union in an effort to force West Berliners to accept communism.
The parachute is a significant addition to the Berlin Airlift exhibit, said Terry Aitken, the museum's senior curator. "Throughout the history of the Air Force, animal mascots have provided unit identity and made valuable contributions to esprit-de-corps," Mr. Aitken said. "The parachute allows us to tell the story of the Berlin Airlift's mascot and the special bonds between Vittles and the pilots (who) he flew with as a 'crew dog.' It's a wonderful story and already a special hit with our visitors."
Mr. Steber said it did not take long for him to grow fond of Vittles and soon realized that he would make a great companion. "I had a friend in Germany who had a 1-year-old boxer (who) I fell in love with, and he sold him to me," said Mr. Steber, a former Air Force pilot.
Mr. Steber said he soon discovered some of his missions required him to be away for two to three days at time. So he started taking Vittles with him, and soon other pilots began to fly Vittles on their missions as well. "In Berlin, as soon as we were unloaded, we had to take off again," Mr. Steber said. "Sometimes, Vittles would be nosing around other airplanes, and I had to take off without him.
The dog began catching rides with other pilots, and sometimes it would be several days before they would meet up again, Mr. Steber said. "Everybody knew who Vittles belonged to and eventually got him back to me," Mr. Steber said. "The other pilots would feed him and even take him to the officer's club."
Sometimes pilots would give Vittles pans of beer until he got so looped that his legs would go straight out and he would have to be carried home, Mr. Steber said. Eventually, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay heard about the dog and summoned then-Lieutenant Steber to his office.
"General LeMay called me in and said, " Are you the pilot who owns the dog who is flying in our airplanes?" said Mr. Steber, who confirmed he was, thinking he was in a great deal of trouble. "General LeMay replied, 'Without a parachute? That dog is one of the best morale builders that I've had over here. I want that dog to have a parachute!' "
Soon afterward, Vittles had a parachute of his own, designed with a static cord that would automatically open the dog's parachute in case they needed to bail out.
Although Vittles accumulated thousands of flying hours, including flying on 131 missions with Lieutenant Steber during the Berlin Airlift, he actually never needed to use his parachute. Lieutenant Steber was not quite as fortunate, needing his parachute once when the C-47 he was flying went down over Soviet-controlled territory. Lieutenant Steber was able to bail out just seconds before his plane crashed.
"My parachute opened, and I hit the ground at nearly the same time," said Mr. Steber, who was knocked unconscious from the crash and then captured by the Russians. Mr. Steber said he was interrogated and 'roughed up' by the Russians for three days, but eventually released when he could not provide them with any information.
Despite his own ordeal, Mr. Steber said he was just thankful that Vittles was not with him on that flight. It's a good thing the dog wasn't with me that time,It'se probably both would have gotten killed," Mr. Steber said.
At 6 years old, Vittles contracted a disease and died.
When contacted by Air Force Museum officials about donating the parachute, Mr. Steber agreed, but only after he fulfilled a promise to display it for two years onboard the "Spirit of Freedom." The C-54 aircraft serves as a flying museum dedicated to telling the story of the Berlin Airlift at air shows and events around the world.
The exhibit was immediately a huge hit with children, Mr. Steber said. "The kids just loved it because they see a dog wearing a parachute and they get interested and learn more about this humanitarian airlift," he said.
Mr. Steber said he hopes many more people will see the Vittles display and learn more about the Berlin Airlift now that the dog's likeness is at the U.S. Air Force Museum. "He loved flying, and I'm very proud that Vittles is now part of an exhibit at the Air Force Museum," Mr. Steber said. "That dog would have loved it!"
OFFICERS AND LEADERS BEHAVING BADLY
Investigators Find Evidence that Prisoner Abuse is Occurring in at Least 25 Detention Centers
TNS: "American legal investigators have discovered evidence of abuse, torture and rape throughout the US-run prison system in Iraq. A Michigan legal team meeting with former detainees in Baghdad during an August fact-finding mission gathered evidence supporting claims of prisoner abuse at some 25 US-run detention centers, most of them" thus far unrreported and unlisted." The investigators report that the US has set up prisons across the country, converting everything from horse stables to elementary schools to "detention centers." The sheer numbers of detention camps and the abuse systematically occuring in them is disturbingly
The Bush administration keeps trying to pin the blame on lower level military personnel. And although these people I am sure do indeed participate in the abuses, there are three HUGE problems that have given rise to the situation - and all can be traced back to the door of the White House.
First: there were too few soldiers deployed in the invasion to cope with the aftermath chaos. The Bush administration was warned repeatedly that they needed at least 250,000 troops. Instead, they sent 135,000. And, they were warned NOT to destroy the nation's infrastructure. But, in fact, they ordered a rain of bombing that did just that. The end result: a nation with a high number of people who had been displaced and traumatized by the bombing and thus made desperate. The crumpled infrastructure led to unbelievable stress (no running water, sewage, or lights tend to do that even in the US!). So what were troops confronted with? Thousands of people acting out in various ways. What to do with them? With just 135,000 troops, "problem people", along with actual suspected terrorists, were confined in hastily created detention centers, to get them off the streets.
So now you have crowded prisons manned by soldiers who in most cases have no prior training in prison work and who are themselves under unbelievable stress. Add to this mix a "green light" from higher up to "do whatever it takes" to extract information from prisoners, and you in essence have a match being touched to a powder keg.
Back in the early 1960s, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment involving everyday people "off the street" who were paid the present-day equivalent of about $20 to participate for an hour. What Milgram discovered about human nature shocked a the world. But his results were replicated in other experiments after that over and over: And never were Milgram's findings any more relevant than they are today in Iraq.
Here's an excerpt from a summary of the experiment:
The Milgram Experiment: A Lesson in Depravity, Peer Pressure and the Power of Authority
In response to a newspaper ad offering $4.50 for one hour's work, an individual turns up to take part in a Psychology experiment investigating memory and learning. He is introduced to a stern looking experimenter in a white coat and a rather pleasant and friendly co-subject. The experimenter explains that the experiment will look into the role of punishment in learning, and that one will be the "teacher" and one will be the "learner." Lots are drawn to determine roles, and it is decided that the individual who answered the ad will become the "teacher."
Your co-subject is taken to a room where he is strapped in a chair to prevent movement and an electrode is placed on his arm. Next, the "teacher" is taken to an adjoining room which contains a generator. The "teacher" is instructed to read a list of two word pairs and ask the "learner" to read them back. If the "learner" gets the answer correct, then they move on to the next word. If the answer is incorrect, the "teacher" is supposed to shock the "learner" starting at 15 volts.
The generator has 30 switches in 15 volt increments, each is labeled with a voltage ranging from 15 up to 450 volts. Each switch also has a rating, ranging from "slight shock" to "danger: severe shock". The final two switches are labeled "XXX". The "teacher" automatically is supposed to increase the shock each time the "learner" misses a word in the list. Although the "teacher" thought that he/she was administering shocks to the "learner", the "learner" is actually a student or an actor who is never actually harmed. (The drawing of lots was rigged, so that the actor would always end up as the "learner.")
At times, the worried "teachers" questioned the experimenter, asking who was responsible for any harmful effects resulting from shocking the learner at such a high level. Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility, teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking, even though some were obviously extremely uncomfortable in doing so.
Today the field of psychology would deem this study highly unethical but, it revealed some extremely important findings. The theory that only the most severe monsters on the sadistic fringe of society would submit to such cruelty is disclaimed. Findings show that, "two-thirds of this studies participants fall into the category of "obedient' subjects, and that they represent ordinary people drawn from the working, managerial, and professional classes (Obedience to Authority)." Ultimately 65% of all of the "teachers" punished the "learners" to the maximum 450 volts. No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts!
So the Bush administration is not only responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi prisoners, but for the present and future mental suffering of the soldiers who got caught up in the abuse. I shudder to imagine how many cases of PTSD are being incubated in these detention centers for both victims and perps.
Rape Rampant at US Air Force Bases
Sexual assaults at U.S. air force bases are more widespread than officials first believed and addressing the problem will require major institutional changes, said an air force report released Monday.
Air force teams investigated 85 installations in the United States and overseas and found many women failed to report rapes because they feared they would be disciplined. The report said: "Respondents repeatedly described sexual assault as a cultural issue in need of a compelling and sustained message."
The four-month probe also found response programs for victims are inadequate, the air force has lacked a formal sexual-assault policy and existing training has been sporadic and focused more on sexual harassment rather than rape.
"Addressing sexual assault in the U.S. air force requires deep, long-lasting, cultural and institutional change," Michael Dominguez, air force assistant secretary for manpower and reserves, wrote in a preface to the report.
The study began in February, a year after a sex-abuse scandal surfaced at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The academy has overhauled its top leadership and policies on sexual assault after dozens of current and former female cadets complained they were ignored or punished after reporting assaults.
The report recommends major institutional changes, including developing an air force-wide sexual assault-prevention and response policy; assigning an office to oversee the policy and programs; integrating databases used to report and track rapes and requiring pre-deployment sexual assault response training for officers.
"The air force must do a better job of defining and understanding the crime of sexual assault and the behaviour that spawns it. Ultimately, the air force must work through its commanders to create an institutional environment that refuses to accept or facilitate such behaviour," the report said.
The investigation grew as air force officials received allegations of rape in the Pacific Air Forces command, which includes bases in Hawaii, Alaska and Japan. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas also called for the force to address reports that up to two dozen women were raped in fiscal year 2002-03 at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.
BITS AND PIECES
Kerry Vows to Deploy National Guard Where it is Constitutionally Mandated: Here at Home!
The National Guard bulletin reports that John Kerry says he would give the National Guard a more significant role in homeland security if he is elected. "As president I will recognize that homeland security is a Constitutionally-mandated mission of the National Guard." Kerry spoke before 3,000 Guard leaders and other members on Sept. 16. "In addition to their current duties overseas, I will assign Guard units an additional mission to a standing joint task force commanded by a general from the Guard." "I was pleased that Sen. Kerry understands and appreciates the role of the citizen-Soldier that has always served this country so well in times of peace and war," said Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau. His service in the Navy "means he understands us in a way that only a fellow comrade in arms can understand us," said Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, chairman of the Guard association's board, while introducing Kerry."
Bush Gives $100-Million Vehicle Armor Contract to Israeli Kibbutz
"Kibbutz Sasa-based Plasan Sasa won a $100 million plus U.S. Marines contract last week to provide armor hardware for up to 920 armor kits. Plasan will operate in conjunction with American producers Oshkosh Truck. Work is to be completed by December 2005
The Marine Corps ordered 796 armor kits for $145 million, with an option for another 124. The kits include armor, suspension upgrades, and air conditioning kits for trucks now being used in Iraq. Plasan, which specializes in lighter than steel composite armor, will perform most of the armor hardware work.
Plasan has won a number of international contracts over the past two years. Six months ago it sold more than 200 armored Hummers to Greece for $10 million. It has also provided armor for British APCs sent to Iraq.
The U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots Goes On Despite Iraq Deployments thanks to the Reserves
When the Marine Reserves in the Quad-City Illinois area were deployed last July, the annual Toys for Tots drive lost its usual workers and the usual building for the toy drop off and processing. Things looks bleak, but then, in early September, they found a building:
Diedre Cox Baker of the QC Times reports that "a warehouse on the Mississippi riverfront in Moline will be used for this year's drive, alleviating a main problem faced recently by the event's coordinator, Sgt. David Huddleston of the Marine Corps' General Support Maintenance Co. based at the Rock Island Arsenal.
"That was one of my main worries," he said. "Now I have 10 other things to worry about."
Organizers now will try to locate community volunteers to fill the shoes of Marine Reserves who used to operate the Toys for Tots drive. That unit was deployed July 7 to Iraq. Huddleston said the Marines will take a list of those willing to help
The Marine Reserves now in Iraq knew their previous community project was left in good hands. Staff Sgt. Stephanie Borges, a spokeswoman for the Reserves, predicted in July that the drive would continue with others volunteering their time.
"Even if we had only two Marines here, we'd do it," she said.
Speaking of the Marines....
Never too Late to thank the US Marine Corps
Sixty years after invading the island of Guam, the first American soil recaptured from the Japanese in the South Pacific, the Marines who made it back are getting a special thanks.
"It brought tears to my eyes when I got this in the mail," said John K. Davis, an 84-year-old Tyler man who helped reclaim the island in July 1944. "It brought back so many great and sad memories."
Veterans of the Guam invasion are receiving medals and certificates, signed by Guam Gov. Felix Camacho. The certificate says the Marine effort enabled 60 years of "freedom and progress" which would "not have been realized" otherwise.
Late in 1944, the Courier-Times-Telegraph featured a letter about the invasion written by Davis, then a young Marine Corps lieutenant, to his parents in Tyler. "We established our headquarters just in from the beach, and started digging in," the soldier wrote. "Digging a fox hole in coral is no easy job, but about that time all you are thinking about is how nice and safe that hole is going to be when you do get it completed."
To aid them in their mission, the U.S. Marine Signal Corps employed Navajo code talkers, who used their native language to create a code the Japanese never broke. Members of the Signal Corps transmitted the code from base camps to other units across the island of Guam, helping American forces reclaim the island from the Japanese in about 20 days.
"We set up a communications tent in which we had different types of equipment, including coding machines," Davis said in an interview for another story two years ago. "On our first night ashore they declared 'condition black,' which meant a Japanese attack was imminent. We had thermite grenades to melt the equipment if it was captured."
The reclamation of the island resulted in about 7,800 American casualties.
Navy Rejects Kerry Probe - Says Enough, Already!'
The U.S. Navy has rejected a legal watchdog group's request to open an investigation into military awards given to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry during the Vietnam War, saying his medals were properly approved
"Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," the Navy's inspector general, Vice Admiral Ronald Route, said in a memo written to Navy Secretary Gordon England.
"In particular, the senior officers who awarded the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards."
In rejecting the request for an investigation made by Judicial Watch last month, Route said that "conducting any additional review regarding events that took place over thirty years ago would not be productive."
Bug Spray and Sun Screen: The Perils and Pitfalls and How to Avoid them
We hear the bugs in Iraq are microterrorists! So it is tempting to slather oneself in as much DEET-laced stuff as you can get hold of. However, ChemicalWATCH warns that more ain't necessarily better. And, in fact, using too much DEET can lead to: Memory loss, shortness of breath, joint pains, weakness, tremors, increased general skin hypersenitivity and other woes. About 48% of the dose of DEET once applied is absorbed in six hours, so applying too often obviously will cause a major build up.
Don't use two-in-one insect repellant-sunscreens - they may show up on the black market but they've been banned. The trouble is that sunscreen was meant to be applied frequently while insect spray lasts at least twice as long. So you can see what happens: Nice burn-free skin combined with DEET poisoning! Also make sure the insect spray contains no more than 30% DEET.
Avoid, if at all possible, mixing sunscreen and insect repellant - the chemical combo can really mess some people up. But if you must, put the insect spray on FIRST, then the sun screen. That way you only need to add more sunscreen, not insect stuff.
Pentagon Wants to Make Having Contact with a Prostitute a Court-Martiable Offense
LasVegas Sun: "U.S. troops stationed overseas could face courts-martial for patronizing prostitutes under a new regulation drafted by the Pentagon. The move is part of a Defense Department effort to lessen the possibility that troops will contribute to human trafficking in areas near their overseas bases by seeking the services of women forced into prostitution.
In recent years, "women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military services members, government contractors and international peacekeepers" in places like South Korea and the Balkans, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill forum on Pentagon anti-trafficking efforts.
Defense officials have drafted an amendment to the manual on courts-martial that would make it an offense for U.S. troops to use the services of prostitutes, said Charles Abell, a Pentagon undersecretary for personnel and readiness.
Jeez! This seems sort of ironic: First the Pentagon forces guys to be in a war zone for extended tours.. pushing the limits of human endurance and now they want to court martial them for contact with a prostitute! I can't imagine how this could be enforced without creating huge problems in a war zone! Salt peter in the scrambled eggs, maybe? (a substance they used to quell the "urges" of monks back in the Middle Ages).
Rumsfeld Recants 'Partial Election' Statement - Claims it was the Haldol Talking
The Spoof "On Thursday, September 23rd Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he didn't think that elections in Iraq necessarily needed to encompass the entire country in order to be fair or binding. Speaking at one of his increasingly rare press conferences, Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed the idea that voting in a national election should be a right enjoyed by every citizen as "kinda loopy". "If there were to be an area where the extremists focused during the election period, and an election was not possible in that area at that time, so be it", said Rumsfeld, blithely writing off a significant portion of Iraq as a voting entity. Rumsfeld of course backed down from his statement the very next day saying, "It was the Haldol talking yesterday, of course every Iraqi will get a chance to vote. I know a lot of them are dying to be able to cast their ballot and probably a lot more of them will die before they ever get a chance to, but hey, it's all good."
STRANGE BUT TRUE,.....
New Toyota Made from Sweet Potatoes
Prostitutes form Woman's football Team in Central America
New Play Staged in Public Toilet
Ringo Starr Tells Royal Family to Get Lost! (Allright, Ringo!!)