Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interrogation Training

Eh, I mean "interviewing." This is a great training clip that highlights all the things I ever learned from the CI-Roller Dude. Wanted to share this while I ponder what update to write, ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another runner in the race!

Thank you to everyone who donated to the IMSFF - I am proud to report that Ravee has exceeded his goal, so I now owe a few posts. But I also want to call attention to another runner, who deserves our support - I can't report his story better than is done at War on Terror News, definitely an inspirational story even if you can't support his run (but you should [;)

Thanks to Hope for "sparking" the rivalry, but no matter who gets the donations it is a great cause all round. All the passion almost makes me consider running a marathon - well, no not really. I still prefer to jump in rather than hump in.

For those of you who have donated or just have an interest, you can get updates of the runners during the race by signing up on the MCM site

Friday, September 11, 2009

Real support of the Troops

A friend of mine is running his first marathon and decided to honor those who have served by running in the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon and raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Please consider helping him reach his goal of $1,000 raised in exchange for sore limbs and joints, and weeks of hard training.

If he reaches his goal, I promise to write an update and a deployment post.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Have a Great Fourth

And remember how Blessed you are to live here.

I dig this shirt

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gathering Storm 2008

February - March 2008, Basra, Iraq - news headlines that didn't get much coverage until after the fact.

- Growing violence in Basra, security situation in question.

- Criminal gangs taking control of commerce in port city.

- British forces deny increase in violence.

- Iraqi police in Basra rumored to be told to "stay in barracks" by militia.

- Women in Basra beheaded for "immodesty" for not wearing hijab.

- Children playing soccer executed for "playing games of the infidel."

- Street markets empty, people fearful of going out.

While pressure built on Prime Minister al-Maliki to act to contain the violence, the British operation in Iraq since PM Blair left office amounted to little but a PR operation to hide the fact that they had failed the people of Basra. Moving the British draw-down forward was a critical political consideration in London, and so Coalition forces tried hard to avoid having to act.

The factions took over entire units of the police force, and maneuvered their members into key positions in the government and state-run Southern Oil Co. Some also beat and killed unveiled women in a city once regarded as a liberal, intellectual center. And all are implicated in smuggling millions of dollars' worth of oil, while the city is bereft of basic services such as electricity and clean water.

The vicious rivalry has resulted in periodic gunfights. But British officials say 90% of the violence is directed against them.

That, they argue, is the key difference between Basra and Baghdad. If British troops were taken out, what would be left is a mafia-style conflict for economic and political leverage, rather than the sectarian killing that is tearing Baghdad and other areas.

"This is Palermo, not Beirut," said one senior British officer, who asked not to be identified.
The clouds had gathered and were heavy with vengeance and anger. The storm was about to break and rain down hell on the city of Basra, as it's people huddle in their homes and begged for someone to help them......

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great Read

In the event that there is anyone that Hope hasn't already introduced this to, you gotta go read this blog. I'm still having trouble reconciling the fact that a Marine can, as my team sergeant and former force recon said "put them words together like that", but hey gotta give props.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Infidels - Whoomp

This Easter I am quite happy to be at home for a quiet day with the wife and kids. Last Easter was very different, and it was the start of a series of events that led to a big drop off in my writing. Actually, it all begins a few days before Easter, but that will wait, because since it is Easter I want to recount what it was like for us last year.

We had recently made a big capture and a significant haul in XXXX[insurgent group] ordinance to include rockets, mortars, ammo, etc. - but the real shocker was the plates and explosives to make over 200 EFPs. This was a major blow and threatened to undo a lot of back-channel bridge building that we had been working on for months. But our message was clear - come into the open and join the political process, or we will continue to support and encourage Iraqi Forces to hammer you. Losing the EFPs was really bad for XXXX[insurgent group], because they were provided by Iran, and losing them means answer to their Iranian masters.

But more later, the point for this story is we had surprised them, and there had been no response. Odd really, because they usually made a show of tit-for-tat. Our catch was a big deal on our side, so much so that we were responding to RFIs from Gen P, plus having to deal with all the fighting over who should get credit for the intel, for the catch, etc. Fact is we were happy to let our conventional Brothers take as much credit as they wanted, the real issue was ensuring our Iraqis got credit so that we could boost their profile and get them more funding.

Quick backstory - the MOI felt that the unit we were training was too politically independent, too close to the Americans, and they didn't like the outspoken General in command. The Ministry had been trying to starve them of beans and bullets to make them complie. Our hope was to get them enough, what I call fuck you money, and top-line press coverage that the GOI would be forced into better support.

So what did this mean for your faithful correspondent? Lots of fucking paperwork, RFIs from Group, RFIs from the Iraqis, RFIs for the 101st, RFIs from the S2 who was blind to our original reasons for the mission. And several, shall we say, "sit-downs" in the family style, with CO over just exactly where did I get my info.

From my journal entry of that day:

23 MAR 2008 - Easter
There has been quite a bit of interest in the HVI and I spend most of the day trying to get back to people and tie different threads together, go thru his XXXX, DOCEX and such. I spent hours answering RFI from people I couldn't get to return my e-mails putting this all together, and now everyone is trying to either cover their fourth point of contact, or claim it was their idea. Ugggghh, I need to lie down because I have a massive headache and am tired.
I was in my rack about 45 minutes, I was in that nether state between wake and sleep when


a concussion I more felt than heard jarred me up and I was on feet and moving before my concious mind was able to catch with what was going on.


These coming in close to each other, usually it was a WHOOMP......WHOOMP.....WHOOMP, you could almost picture the hajji dropping one, grabbing another, holding....drop, WHOOMP. But there are at least two tubes firing, I can't see a damn thing, but I know my route well by now. I peer in the bunker -


- damn it there must be three tubes firing. Some of the guys are in there, the Capt'n and my Linguist. "Terp M", as we called him, is already on the phone - I think to myself he's come a long way. He finally realizes I need him talking to people right away instead of running around like a .. well you get it.


God damn, these guys staying out there, I hope there's some birds in the area to smoke 'em. Usually these pop a few and run so we can't a fix, but these coming consistently, the TOC's gotta have a fix on 'em.


Shit, these sound closer than usual (they weren't - it turned out they firing 81mm at us instead of the 60mm they usually did). Capt'n - "GOD DAMN, SOMEBODY WANTS TO KIIILL ME!!!!" We can't help but laugh. The barrage went on for a long time, turned out not be the only one in Iraq at the moment, but we did get hit with the most, and for a tiny little firebase - it was a significant message that they pissed the fuck off....and they were only getting started.

We found out later that at almost the same moment, the Green Zone was getting well wishes from Iran.

Happy Easter Infidel.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dealing with terps, the unoffical *true* version

"Every rotation does it."

"No one will ever know."

If you are working with an interpreter, and they utter either of these phrases, go ahead and punch them right in the mouth. More Soldiers have gotten into trouble listening to there terps than I care to count.

Before I get into this, I do need to make a distinction between military linguists, who are Soldiers who happen to speak a foreign language, contract interpreters, who, by and large, are native speakers of another language, and have somehow immigrated to the US, and local linguists who are, well, local nationals who speak enough english to get a job with US forces. My focus here is not military linguist - they are Soldiers and should be treated as such. I was lucky enough to work with one in Iraq and he was a tremendous asset. The picture at the top is of he and I at rest after a long week.

So back to the quotes above, I have heard both of these from terps in the past, and it is usually at the begining of the rotation. My experience has been that the suggestion they are making, is not for the benefit of my team. While it might be something we would enjoy (oh like, "we can cross the border and go party in Zagreb!" or "I used to sneak women on base for the last rotation all the time"), the motivation is usually something to do with the terp himself.

Fortunately, I don't have any good stories about guys sleeping with female terps, we were smart enough not to hire any and avoided that nonsense. But I suppose you could google all the pics Joe has posted on the internet. [;)

Sergeant Grumpy's Rules for dealing with Terps

You are in charge, not the Terp
I have been in a situation where a terp, who in fairness had been at the base we were working at a long time, said during a meeting when told to translate something, "No, we aren't going to do that, I won't translate it." Eventually, like a precocious puppy who nips all the time and doesn't get disciplined and eventually bites, terps start to think they know more than Soldiers they work for. This happens because people fail to manage terps like they do their subordinates. If this is happening, stop and re-set expectations with your terp, and make it damn clear. If the terp can't adapt, get rid of him if you can. The terp in this story ended up being sent packing after one month.

You must communicate with your terp
While terps are tools, they are not screwdrivers. You won't get the best results by just throwing them into a meeting at the last minute without warning. While OPSEC concerns must be respected, take the time to pre-brief him or her on what general topics you plan on covering, if there are any specialized vocabulary you intend to use, say you are going to discuss issues related to a water treatment plant, the terp might need to do a little research. And take this time to remind the terp, you work for me, translate just what I say, try to use my tone of voice, etc.

Then do a quick debrief while you review your notes, this is a chance for you to give immediate feedback to the terp to reinforce positive performance and demand improvement in weak areas. It also is a chance to ask for their help if there are areas in your notes that are lacking, or if something was said you didn't understand, but didn't want to break the flow.

You will check your terp
My experience tells me terps will get lazy in their use of language, and some have personal hang ups over using profanity, etc. You need to take the time to learn a few words so you can test your terp. If you find he hasn't used the word you are expecting, this has to be addressed immediately after the meeting. The easiest of course are to use the profanity which always seems to be the easiest to pick up. Another good tactic is to bring in a linguist who the term doesn't know speaks, of course this only works once, but puts him on notice.

You will treat your your terps like they are sources
Because guess what, they are. You terps will likely have many, many side conversations with all the important local nationals you visit with. And they will also talk to all the other terps on base, who are also talking to people all over town. Get it? Now, the other rules above will require you to take a tough line with your terp from time to time, but if you handle that professionally, and take the time and effort to actually build a relationship with them, you will gain access to a ton of information. Don't like your terp? Too damn bad, I'm not asking you to become domestic parnters, I am saying the terp better think you two have a good relationship. And never ever forget that the terps gossip and talk shit about each other and Soldiers on base, don't give him anything to say about you other than "he's a hard ass sometimes, but he's fair."

Corrallary: Do not treat your military linguists like terps.
They are god-damn Soldiers, not terps, so treat them like the rest of your Soldiers. Nuff said.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New website for Grumpy

I have stood up a new domain for my blog, and along with it a new website - It is still rough around the edges as I have neither too much money, nor too much time to work on it, but it is functional. It's mostly a shell right now, but I will continue to build it out over time. If you have ideas on what you would like to see there, let me know. Mostly, it is for me to screw around a little and practice with PHP and HTML. I do hope to raise some money too, as I've got friends downrange I'd like to send some care packages to, besides the cost of actually keeping the site up.

Okay, now I am going to put the finishing touches on my interpreter piece, it seems each time I proof it I want to change it all over again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

AfPak plan given poor marks?

Mike was early in saying Iraq was sliding into civil war, was one of the first to call the surge a success (he saw it from a grounds-eye view), and left Iraq for Afghanistan almost two years ago because that was where he felt the center shift. He drew attention to the crisis brewing in Afghanistan long before even McCain.

Of course now all that is conventional wisdom. While he could be wrong this time, it is worrying that, as he says:

There is little in the Obama plan to be excited about. Some have called it "bold," but from my boots it looks like a recipe for disaster.

We are steaming toward failure in AfPak, but with more steam than ever before.
I am not read on enough to know the truth, and as in Iraq, I am quite sure the "truth" is shrouded in a veil.

At any rate, if Mike is saying it, it is worth considering.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back to work

I go on terminal leave starting Monday, having completed the clearing and demob processes last week. I have a few things to take care of up at my Guard unit and then I am back to work as a civie! For those that are interested, I have started another blog focused on Project Management called The Grumpy PM. I imagine it will be a bit dull for most of my readers, but if you are interested in project management, I'll see you there.

Up next: best practices for dealing with terps. CI Roller, I'm expecting you to weigh in.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shoulder Recovery Update and WTU thoughts

I have been medically cleared by my surgeon and physical therapist to "return to duty", which for me means I can finish the demobilization process and return to civilian life. I have been warned that I will need to "watch it" with my shoulder and be disciplined about sticking with the PT program for at least 12 months. And the while the shoulder is much stronger, it still ain't right, so to speak.

So I expect in the next few weeks to wrap things up, clear my medical hold unit (the WTU), be returned to my Guard unit and go on terminal leave. Fortunately for me, I have found a good job and will start working right away. I want to thank everyone for their support while I've been stuck on this.

I also want to say that the cadre and staff in the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) have been excellent. The Army's WTU system has been getting some bad press lately, and while I can't speak for other WTU's or the specific charges made by other current/former Soldiers, it is my opinion that this is a vastly better system than what was in place previously, and I find it hard to believe any Soldier could fall through the cracks, failed to get the help and support they needed, or didn't have access to an incredible array of resources unless they (the Soldier) willed it so. I certainly can believe the charges recently made about excessive discipline, unfortunately the Army has Officers with that kind of mentality. I can also say from observation though, that many WTU Soldiers fail to show even the most basic motivation to get up in the morning and go to the appointments that will help them heal. Where is the line between the Army's responsibility and the Soldiers? Personally, I feel that Army should provide support and resources without resorting to coddling Soldiers - that does not help the Soldier at all, and in fact may worsen their self-esteem already damaged by not being back with their units. I don't have the answer, but I do believe that allowing Soldiers to sit around and cruise the Internet and play video games all day is worse for them than holding them to a personal plan of recovery and self development. That would not include of course police call and standing guard. What do you think?

All in all, my experience has been a very positive one, and I am grateful to the support from my surgeon, the post hospital, my case manager, and company cadre. Everything was fairly efficient, people were professional, and my personal needs and situation were taken into account when developing my recovery plan.

Up next: I have been working on drafting some Bosnia and Iraq stories, my goal is to publish about one a week. I also have something else I am preparing to launch in a week or two. Check back!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Honor Killings in the US

As the muslim population in the US increases, don't be surprised to see more these - coming to a town near you soon.

Muslim Television Channel Founder Charged With Beheading His Wife

Here's what this prick had to say about the founding of his TV station.

"Every day on television we are barraged by stories of a 'Muslim extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,'" Hassan said in the 2004 release. "But the stories that are missing are the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence that Bridges TV hopes to tell."
Good job asshole, hope you rot in hell. The other travesty on this is New York is charging this guy with SECOND degree murder. WTF? Where is CAIR on this?

Oh that? Hey, how about those Broncos? (Job searching Blues)

Two times in the past week, I have been asked during job interviews if I thought I could be deployed again anytime soon. Ughhh.

Never mind that this is a completely inappropriate, possibly illegal, question. In both cases the person asking had a feeling they shouldn't be asking, based on their sudden awkwardness, trying to make it sound like idle conversation. Clearly it wasn't and it could be a knock-out criteria when it comes to the positions I am interviewing for. It is the same reason I was told I would never make the step in a previous job, and should consider whether I want to focus on my career or the Guard.

So how do you answer this? I can't just refuse to answer or tell them indignantly that they can't ask such questions. I can't just turn around and sue - that would ruin my reputation in my field and I'd be done. So I did what any good "mess-kit repairman" would do and fudged the answer and deflected the conversation in another direction. Both interviews went well, but of course I walked away with a rotten feeling.

It seems to me this is emblematic of the broader attitude citizens in this country have taken for the war - thank you for your service, as long as it doesn't inconvenience me or affect my ability to buy more useless crap.

It's not that I don't understand - no one I knew had trouble after the Gulf War, but we are now in a protracted struggle (Iraq/Afghanistan/Iran?Hezbollah/Pakistan/Somalia/Yemen/Saudi Arabia/etc.) that we are only half fighting, and as a result will drag out for years. The impact on America's businesses and especially Emergency Services (many, many Reservists are police, firefighters, and EMTs) is really poorly understood. It is hard enough to lose any staff and have to protect their jobs in an uncertain economy, but senior positions are impossible. You have to replace the person immediately for the sake of the business. And then you just pray for the best upon return. I guess that is why you don't see many talented business people in the service. The only exception is Defense Contractors. The reliance on the Guard and Reserves has pushed many to the point of getting out. I have often thought we should either increase the size of the AD Army and Marines, or just call everyone up for the duration and fight to win, like in WWII. Constantly switching back and forth between civilian and military life is extremely taxing.

Either that or Guard Soldiers need to have a sugar momma/daddy and then just be Guard bums. I guess I missed that one!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Assault on Gun Rights Begins

I was going to start writing some war stories, but this got my ire up.

You would think what with two wars and an economy in dire straights that gun control would be a back burner issue, but the assault on the rights of gun owners and hunters has begun. I am not going to go into a long rant, but I encourage my readers to contact their representatives and let them know how you feel, and sign this petition, and challenge people you know who support gun control.

I'd also challenge anyone to let me know how gun control is going to do anything to stop gun violence. Criminals do not buy guns legally and would not be subject to these new laws. This is a Big Brother mentality far worse than the Bush administration's anti-terrorist wire tapping, which has real potential to keep America safe (I know this from the inside, so don't bother trying to argue). These laws hide behind sound bites of "reducing gun violence", but in reality introduce vast and onerous regulations in an attempt to make it impossible to comply.

Besides all that, this is an issue the several States already regulate. The differences in regulation are based on the differences in the values between places like Colorado, Texas, New York, and California. I choose to live in a State with loose gun laws because I value the right of protecting my family, and I am not some chicken shit who is afraid to hold a gun, let alone use it on someone who threatens my kids. If you want to live in a society where only criminals have weapons, then move to CA or the East Coast. But don't shove that down my throat

Or wildlife for that matter - my 90 lb dog was killed by a deer and a 14 year old in a nearby town was attacked by a Coyote. I need firearms to protect my family, and me and my fellow rural citizens should not have big city folks telling us how we should live.

I also have seen around the world what happens to people who don't have the means to defend themselves and their families when government fails. At the least they are taken advantage of, in the worst they are slaughtered. Don't think it applies to us here in the land of plenty? Civilization is a thin veneer, and it doesn't take much for you to be on your own. Witness LA after Rodney King, or more seriously New Orleans - I was deployed there after the storm, and the only property owners who weren't robbed were the ones who had "will shoot trespassers" signs on their laws. Even some of the police were robbing people's houses there.

By moving on gun control so early in Obama's administration, the liberal members of the Democratic party are confirming the worst fears of gun owners, validating the fear-mongering of the right and costing him good will when this country needs it the most. Obama and the Dems should leave this issue alone until we are out of crisis and then we can bloody each other.

UPDATE: Follow coverage of this here, and consider joining the NRA today. Active Duty Servicemembers can join for free.

UPDATE: For folks that don't read the comments, please read CI Roller's response to this post.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama's "Taxing" Problem

Just why is it that so many Democrats, who have no problem telling us plebians that we should be happy "sharing the wealth", seem to have so many problems paying their own taxes? Discuss.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

There's lots of threads in ole Duder's head, man

At the risk of being totally stream of conscious, I'll try to give an update. I am still in what is called a "Warrior Transition Unit", which has grown to the size of a battalion while I've been here. "Warrior Transition" in the bizarre politically correct speech of any Federal Government agency is the Army's way of referring to Soldiers who are wounded and injured and may not be able to do what they used to be able to do.

I myself am doing pretty well, although I have had a minor set back on the shoulder. That said I am still tracking to be at 90% six months out of surgery for something I was told could take 12 months. So in addition to regular physical therapy (aside: physical therapists are some sadistic SOBs, it should be called Pain and Torture), and general working out I have been working on finding employment once I am released.

What fucking timing you say? Yeah the economy is a little shitting to be looking for work, which is why I have several COAs (Course of Action) running at the same time - looking for professional civilian work, looking for contract intel work locally (which there is a fair amount of where I live), and keeping the recruiters who deal in contract work overseas on the hook as a fall back plan. There is some good money still to be made in Iraq, especially with my background, but really I am not up for that.

I have also been trying (spectacularly unsuccessfully I might add) to learn how to type, teach myself Spanish, trying to forget Arabic, reading all the books I've bought and never got to read, catching up on what is going on in business and IT (my civilian profession) and studying for a 4 hour certification exam.

That's how I cope I guess, always have had to be busy. It's how I dealt with Iraq - work, work, work. And it's why Bosnia was such a tough deployment for me at first not enough to do (boy did that change, but that's another story, only Widge and some asshole I won't mention know much of it)

The last thing I have been trying to grapple with is, as the Clash said so eloquently "Should I stay or should I go now..."

I have been on Stoploss (don't feel sorry for me, I knew damn well that would happen, as should every service member who isn't on their first enlistment) since November of 2007 (say it ain't so!), so if I do nothing I will be out of the Guard when my terminal leave is over. Originally, I had no thought of staying in after I got back, but that was before greedy bankers ate my my 401(k) (which I think is now a 124(f)) so the Guard retirement looks a lot better, especially now that deployment time can be used to draw pay earlier. There also is the matter of my Naval Reserve Commission, which the Navy screwed me on when I refused to puss out of my deployment to Iraq, the details of which is probably another post. I have thought about going to my Congressmen to fight to have it reinstated, but then who probably end up working for the same asses that fucked me over in the first place. A lot depends on what happens on the job front, although my family wants me out no matter what, I have to make sure we have health coverage, and I only have 6 years to get a retirement, so I have to be practical.

So that's whats up. Pretty normal and boring really. I have been able to see a few buddies now and then, and that is always good. We had a great Regimental Dinner a few months back, and all I can say is getting a hotel room was a good call. The picture to the right is pretty much how I remember it. My buddy "Joe" is back from Asscrackistan, and I think my friends in Kosovo will back soon.

That's all that's fit to print, maybe I'll write some war stories soon. Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Come Clean you KBR bastards

This week reports surfaced that KBR, a military-contracting firm, may have unnecessarily put American troops in harm’s way. Today, I took a stand with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) in calling for accountability.

Please take a minute to do the same.

Visit, and tell KBR to come clean.

Pass it on.