Saturday, April 30, 2011

FOB HOPPING 101



FOB HOPPING is the process of getting from point "A" to Point "B" here in Afghanistan by helicopter. It can be both tedious and exciting....most of it depends on what happens along the way.....I've done quite a bit of this while in Afghanistan and it never goes exactly the way you anticipate.

I got tossed around by prop wash one time when I was getting off a helicopter in Herat but that is a different story....


The latest version of this occurred over the last few days...the typical delays occurred - show time was 1500 - then got pushed back to 1900....I waited until evening and then got dropped off at the PAX terminal where you and the others who are lucky enough to be going through this process wait.


Soon we knew this was not going to be a good time because the flight time got pushed back several times from 1900 hrs to 2100 to 2300 and then ultimately until 0130...the whole time you are waiting in a room that has a large TV playing the crappiest programs imaginable (AFN - Armed Forces Network)...the programs are the worst situation comedies, commercials talking about basic military info and other public service announcements. Imagine TV so bad it would cause small animals to go into seizures....yes, it is that bad.

Finally, we get the word that we need to grab our gear and line up for our flight at 0130, flying out at 0215. When we get outside, we line up by location, and mine is the last one they will get to, which means I get to get on first...consequently, we will get to go to all the other locations before we get to our place.....I find out that means we will make 8 other spots....I am not a happy camper.

We get on board take our seats and the two side gunners are there suited up for winter....it is at that point that I realize we will be flying through the mountains with the windows open so we can defend ourselves if we get attacked. The air gets pretty cold at altitude and I only have a light jacket on. If you would like to replicate this experience, try tooling down the highway sometime in the winter with both your windows wide open and you'll get an idea on what the next three hours will feel like.....part of the fun is that it took three hours to get from point " A" to "B" on this journey.... Brrrrrrr.

During the course of the trip, we had to refuel, so they ask all of us to get out while they do so.....we step out of the helicopter and walk over to the side of the LZ....it is pitch black out, there is a very small crescent moon and other than that, the entire world beyond where we are is pitch black....no lights, no walls, no idea of where we are or if there is a base there.....we are in the middle of no man's land....it was creepy as I had no idea if it was a good place to be or not...a few of the soldiers had their weapons ready so I stood by and waited. the refueling was done and we got aboard.

Finally we get to the last place, where I needed to get off. By now, the sun is coming up, the base is there and me and one other guy depart the helicopter. They take off and we call our POC. He comes over and escorts us to the basic qtrs. where we can plot our stuff down. I am exhausted as I had no sleep at all. I get in to the place, and basically try to climb into my rack for a few hours of sleep before the day begins....30 minutes later, the other guys who share the place turn on the lights and start their day...wonderful. I try to get an hour's sleep but it is useless. Tired but now also hungry, I get up and make my way to the showers to see if that will help....just another fun day of " FOB HOPPING" in Afghanistan...

Next time someone tries to tell me about how bad their commute is back home, I will have a story to tell them about what that same process involves over here....FOB Hopping....just another part of the fun and frolics here in Afghanistan. We are glad to have the soldiers and those who keep us safe while we travel in this dangerous place....The guy who said, " Getting there is half the fun.." obviously never participated in FOB Hopping.

Friday, April 29, 2011

" Can it never be easy??" CAM NEELY leaves his mark on the new Boston Bruins

The loud sound you heard the other night was me cheering the BOSTON BRUINS on as they took out the Montreal Canadians...I got to watch the overtime period on AFN (Armed Forces Network) from Bagram, Afghanistan and see the "Black & Gold" take out the Habs.....AWESOME....

Here is one of the main reasons why the Boston Bruins have been on an upward track, the quality of their leadership, in General Manager CAM NEELY...Number 8 brings intensity to the team even if he is off the ice.....


BOSTON BRUINS

Neely leaving his mark on the Bruins
Boston Globe by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 28, 2011

When P.K. Subban's power play blast that should have had a NASCAR sponsorship logo on it whizzed by Tim Thomas with 1:57 remaining to give Montreal new life in Game 7, Bruins President Cam Neely, peering down from his presidential perch, was thinking exactly what most Spoked-Believers were.

"I was like, 'Can it never be easy?' said Neely, who wore a suit and a look of relief after his Bruins knocked off the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime last night at TD Garden to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"That was the first thing, like, man, 'It's just never going to be easy.' But I guess that is what makes it a little sweeter."

It doesn't get much sweeter in recent history for the Bruins, who ended their run of Game 7s gone bad against their biggest rival and rallied from an 0-2 series deficit for the first time in franchise history to do so. Seventeen years after they won their last Game 7, also against the Canadiens, it was No. 18 (Nathan Horton) who delivered the Bruins from the brink of yet another playoff disaster with the winner in OT.

The validating victory earned the Bruins a date with redemption and the Philadelphia Flyers in the land of broken dreams, known to the rest of the NHL as the second round. It also got the president's seal of approval for a gutty performance.

"They showed some great character in pulling this game out. I think it was a series where our team just wasn't going to be denied," said Neely.

Character, resolve, determination, and timely tallies -- It's called Bruins with Neely at the helm.

Those were characteristics that defined Neely's Hall of Fame career in Black and Gold. Old No. 8 has left his imprint on this Bruins team since becoming the eighth president in team history last June, 33 days after the collapse against the Flyers. He has brought leadership, accountability, and a sense of urgency to Causeway Street. Last night it showed.

Neely is already on record as saying that he feels like this club has Final Four (re: Eastern Conference finals) talent. That's still debatable, but what isn't is that Neely has raised the bar.

That's why this win was huge for Bruins' leadership, from Neely to General Manager Peter Chiarelli to coach Claude Julien to captain Zdeno Chara, finally on the winning side in a Game 7 in his sixth try. As a group the latter three had been 0-3 in Game 7s with the Bruins.

If it got to 0-4 it was over and out for Julien, and probably Chiarelli. A first-round exit after heartbreaking losses the last two years in the second round would have left Neely with no choice but to reboot the Bruins behind the bench and in the front office.

"You don't want to think [about losing] during the game," Neely said. "You just want to think about winning. Obviously, everybody knew what was at stake in Game 7 in the first round when you think you shouldn't be in that situation necessarily. But it was good to pull it out."

Still, you get the sense that Neely is reserving judgment until the playoffs are concluded. He's looking at the big picture, and a second-round exit for the third year in a row would probably negate the euphoria of breaking the Game 7 hex. Neely was asked if this was a big win for Julien, whom Neely issued a tepid vote of confidence for in December.

"Based on how we finished last year and coming into this year, we had a lot of expectations to do really well," Neely said. "We had a good regular season. We knew it was going to be a tough series against Montreal, just based on how we played each other throughout the regular season. In this sport there are always expectations and there are always pressures."

Neely clearly has the hang of this executive thing because that was a suit-speak answer, but what else can he really give without making a false promise or undermining his coach? The second-round is still the Rubicon the Bruins must cross. Last night's win, no matter how cathartic, doesn't change that. That's the type of clear-headed vision you want from your pucks president.

But any potential human resources reshuffling takes a back seat to hockey. Instead of waking up this morning to a fed-up fan base and pondering the fate of the franchise after another playoff failure, Neely is looking forward to a rematch with the Flyers.

"No matter who you face in the second round you want to continue on, said Neely. "Philadelphia, it probably gives a little extra incentive."

Of course it's not all handshakes and happiness for the Spoked-Bs heading into Round 2. There are some real concerns. The first line delivered the game-winner last night on Horton's third goal of the series, but it ended the series with six points, or as many as Chris Kelly had on his own. Flyers center Danny Briere had six goals and seven points in Round 1.

Then there is the power play, which went from feckless to reckless last night, when a second-period Black and Gold gaffe led to a shorthanded goal for the Canadiens that tied the score 2-2. The Bruins' power play was 0-21 in the series, and it looked even worse.

"It's something that I know everybody has talked about. We've talked about it internally," said Neely. "The guys are working on it. The coaching staff is working on it. ...I think we have to improve on it for sure."

But we'll worry about that when the puck drops on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

We know by now that it's never easy with Bruins. Easy isn't in their vocabulary or DNA, but these won't be the same old Bruins because Neely won't allow them to be

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Teen makes digital record of all Iraq & Afghanistan Veteran's Graves at Arlington National Cemetery

AWESOME USE OF THE TECHNOLOGY DUDE.....Give this kid recognition as he made it happen....all on his own......Bravo Zulu, young lad.

Teen makes digital record of Arlington graves

Ricky Gilleland, a tech-savvy 11th-grader, has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ricky Gilleland, 17, has set up a website documenting graves of every service member buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
April 26, 2011, 8:08 p.m.

Reporting from Arlington, Va.— Rosemary Brown is standing over the grave of her son at Arlington National Cemetery when someone catches her eye. It's a boy in khaki shorts and muddy shoes, juggling a clunky camera and the Motorola Xoom he got for his 17th birthday five days earlier.

"May I ask what you're doing?" Brown inquires. The boy begins to peck at the Xoom tablet, and in seconds the image that Brown has come all the way from Cartwright, Okla., to see fills the screen. It's the white marble headstone of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Jason L. Brown, killed by small-arms fire in Afghanistan three years ago this day. Her face brightens.

"Most of Jason's family and friends are in Oklahoma and Texas. For them to be able to see his grave…," she says, her voice breaking.

Richard "Ricky" Gilleland III — 11th-grader and Junior Future Business Leaders of America computer ace — has succeeded where the Army failed: He has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington. His website, preserveandhonor.com

is a reverent catalog of the fallen, and one young man's response to a scandal of Army mismanagement, mismarked graves and unmarked remains that has rocked this hallowed place for two years.

"It's a tool to help remember people. They can go on and think, 'Wow, look at all these people who gave their lives just so I can walk around,' " Ricky says.

His "project," as he calls it, won't fix Arlington's considerable problems. A commission led by former Sens. Bob Dole and Max Cleland was formed to attempt that.

But his simple website has brought a measure of order and relief to military families unnerved by reports first disclosed by Salon.com in 2009: unidentified remains in graves thought to be empty, one service member buried on top of another, an unmarked urn that turned up in a dirt landfill.

The father of one Marine was so disturbed that he had the remains of his son — a 19-year-old private killed in Iraq by a roadside blast in 2006 — disinterred last year. He searched the coffin that held his son's ravaged body himself. A left-arm tattoo confirmed no mistake had been made, reassurance that came at a terrible price.

An investigation by the Army inspector general concluded in June that at least 211 graves were mislabeled. Top brass were fired. And the management of the 147-year-old American landmark, where about 300,000 fallen troops rest, suddenly seemed as chaotic as its uniform lines of unadorned white markers are orderly.

Cemetery operations were declared antiquated. Arlington still relies on paper records and index cards to maintain 200 acres where presidents, astronauts, freed slaves and heroes of every American war lie. "One fire, flood or coffee spill away" from irreplaceable loss, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) warned.

While discussing Arlington's outdated record-keeping over dinner one night last summer, Ricky — who had just gotten an A in his Programming 1 class at school — announced, "I can fix that." His mother didn't doubt it. She still remembered her older sons complaining they were locked out of the computer again because Ricky, age 4, had changed all the passwords.

"He was the kid who figured things out," Elisabeth Van Dyk, 46, said of her youngest. "He took apart remote controls and his brothers' toys and put them back together again. You could trust he knew what he was talking about."

Ricky didn't have his driver's license yet, so he hitched a ride with his mom on her 45-minute commute from their home in Stafford, Va., to her workplace in Washington. He hopped the Metro the rest of the way to the cemetery. This was July and he wanted an early start before the heat set in.

His focus was Section 60, where about 700 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, more than anywhere else in the country. He combed all 18 acres of it, row by row, and found more than just names. At one grave was a baby's sonogram; he thought about the child who would never know his dad. He saw parents who looked a lot like his own, standing, staring.

Ricky took it all in. This is a side of service he had never fully appreciated, even for a military brat — his great-great-great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg, his father is a retired Army sergeant first class, his stepfather is a retired Navy lieutenant commander and both of his brothers are Air Force senior airmen. (He intends to apply to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and wants to be an officer.)

"Sometimes I look at the birth date and they are about the same age as my brothers, or a year older than me. It puts a whole new perspective on life to think there are 18- or 19-year-old kids who give their lives," he said.

One afternoon while he was out here taking pictures, a woman asked, "What number is my son?" She wanted to know where he fell in a casualty count that is nearing 6,000 for both wars. Ricky couldn't answer her, but later he told his mom that he didn't want them to be numbers; he wanted them to be remembered as people.

"From that point forward," his mom recalled, "it seemed to turn into more than a project."

He spent afternoons in a bookstore poring over Web development manuals for the right program language to create the site. At night, in his family's study, his computer hooked up to a 40-inch flat screen and his keyboard on a snack table in front of the couch, he input hundreds of names, photos, links to obituaries and newspaper accounts; he created a space to blog tributes.

By mid-October, the site was launched.

Army Times wrote him up. The local TV station did a piece. At North Stafford High, he was a minor celebrity. Friends and families around the country could view a loved one's grave thousands of miles away with the click of a mouse. So far, the site has received nearly 116,000 hits and about 300 emails, like the one from Jean Lockey, widow of Army Col. Jon M. Lockey, killed in Iraq on July 6, 2007: "I now have a site to go to when life overwhelms me, a place where I can pretend for a moment I am right there."

And Sarah Hall, mother of 1st Lt. Benjamin John Hall, killed in Afghanistan on July 31, 2007: "Ben was … the light of my life and I miss him every second of every day. To know that his loss is felt by others and acknowledged with such love and honor as you have shown here lifts my heart.…Thank you."

About 10% of the service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are at Arlington; the rest are in cemeteries around the country. Ricky's next goal is to enlist the help of the American Legion and record them all on the website. He figures it could be done in a few months.

But the work at Arlington is never really finished. Sadly, there are always graves to add, and he comes out every few weeks to update the list. That's what brings him here today, with his mom and stepdad, in the back seat of the silver Honda she said he could have if he stayed on the honor roll, which he did. (If his grades drop, she has threatened to sell the car for a dollar.)

He's eager to try out the Xoom. It's a gorgeous April Sunday after a hard rain. The red tulips stand straight as soldiers at the cemetery gates, but the grounds are soaked. Ricky starts patrolling the far end of Section 60 where the new arrivals are. It's muddy and his sneakers sink three inches into what he realizes is a grave so fresh the sod hasn't gone in yet. He winces and carries on. No way can he wear those shoes to school Monday.

That's what he's doing when Rosemary Brown spots him. She comes here twice a year — with her husband on the anniversary of Jason's death and by herself on his birthday in September. ("It's a Mom thing. That's my time.") In between, Ricky's website might be the next best thing.

"Continue this, please," she tells the boy she's only just met. He's shy and a little awkward, not so different from the one she raised. "It's so important that they never, ever be forgotten. Ever."

"I will," Ricky promises. "You can bet on it."

faye.fiore@latimes.com
Copyright © 2011 - LA TIMES

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

There may be hope in Massachusetts Government yet....Massachusetts House votes overwhelmingly to control Healthcare costs for public employee unions

Looks like the waves of "real change" have reached the coast of Massachusetts.....about flippin' time....now restore the rights of the TAXPAYERS to tell the greedy unions that they too have to pay their fair share, just like the rest of us....


Here's my personal message to Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO - " GET OVER YOURSELF....you need to know that the days of pillaging the state coffers is coming to an end....about time. We need to make sure there is something left for the people of the state, not just the connected insiders. We'll be paying you & the rest of the greedy hacks for the rest of your lives....

UPDATE - House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night 111-to-42 following tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.

“It’s pretty stunning,’’ said Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected. The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions. . . . It’s a done deal for our relationship with the people inside that chamber.’’

Robert Hayes is a typical bullying Union thug and has shown his infintile attitude when he doesn't get his way. Change happens and he and his Union ilk are not immune from the changes that have effected millions of Massachusetts Taxpayers for years, not just since the recession of 2008......His ability to threaten people and get his way is waning.

House leadership scrambling for votes to strip some bargaining rights
by Cynthia Needham April 26, 2011 - Boston Globe

House lawmakers are poised tonight to pass legislation that would strip police officers, teachers and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns.

The House action would follow tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.

Unions have been fighting to stop the bill, and House leaders offered two last-minute concessions tonight intended to shore up support from wavering legislators.

The first concession would give public employees 30 days to discuss changes to their plans with local officials, instead of allowing local officials to act without any input from union members. But local officials would still, at the end of that period, be able to impose their changes unilaterally.

The second concession would give union members 20 percent of the savings from any health care changes, up from 10 percent in the original bill.

The modifications bring the House bill closer in line with a plan introduced by Governor Deval Patrick in January. Patrick has said he is adamantly opposed to any measure that does not give workers at least some say in their health care plans, but he does not want unions to have the power to block changes. Senate President Murray has said she, too, wants workers to retain a voice in the negotiating process.

Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO said tonight that the House bill is unacceptable. "We are going to fight this thing to the bitter end," he said. "We expect that Massachusetts is not the place that takes collective bargaining away from public employees."


The USMC in SANGIN - “We’ve done what we came out here to do."

The overview of what was accomplished by the USMC in Sangin, the "FALLUJAH" of Afghanistan, cannot be understated.

The name of SANGIN will be held in the same reverence that you hear when Veterans speak of Fallujah, Ramadi, Chosin, Khe Sahn and a number of other key locations around the Globe where the US Marines proved to all that they are the real deal.....

SEMPER FI...the price paid was dear.


Marines turn the tide in the ‘Fallujah of Afghanistan’
By Gretel C. Kovach - San Diego Tribune
Saturday, April 23, 2011


SANGIN, Afghanistan
— It would be hard to forget that face, even if they hadn’t seen it just the day before.

A young Afghan man stood on the side of a narrow dirt lane, watching an open-top truckload of Marines head into a volatile neighborhood in this river valley town coveted by Taliban insurgents and drug lords.

The man smiled at the Marines and waved. Then he yanked a kite string detonation cord attached to a bomb buried in the road.

A platoon from Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment would have been decimated in the attack. The battalion already had suffered more casualties than any other in the 10-year war in Afghanistan, long before its seven-month tour ended this month. But the homemade device was a dud. It smoked but failed to explode until the Marines drove safely out of the way.

The next day, the Marines shot their way back into the ravine, wounding an armed fighter who was dragged into a mosque. When they reached the alley where they had been attacked, Cpl. Jason Gaal and Staff Sgt. Nathan Stocking couldn’t believe their eyes. Both recognized a guy riding by on a motorcycle.

“Lo’ and behold, there’s our trigger man,” Gaal said.

Stocking walked the trembling flex-cuffed detainee back to base, overcompensating for his fury with exaggerated gentleness. “My buddy … my buddy,” he sang, guiding his prisoner lightly by the arm.

The arrest in March of the suspected insurgent was one of many hard-fought victories the 3/5 Marines were savoring during their last weeks in Sangin. Even by Marine Corps standards and the long history of one of its most decorated battalions, their tour that ended this month was brutal.

In October, the Camp Pendleton unit was dropped into the deadliest area of the country for international troops. Their ensuing battle for Sangin extracted a grim toll from their ranks — nearly one in four wounded or killed, most in the first three months. At least 29 Marines and sailors from the battalion and its attachments died and a couple hundred more were wounded.

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew to Sangin last month, he said he had been praying for the 3/5 Marines daily, because they had paid an extraordinary price in sweat and blood to add their names to the Marine Corps roll of honor. But the result had been a “dramatic turnaround,” in his view, for an area of the country that had bedeviled and bloodied British troops and the Afghan government for years.

“You’ve killed, captured or driven away most of the Taliban that called this place home. And in doing so, you’ve linked northern Helmand, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces, a major strategic breakthrough,” Gates told the Marines.

Going in

They had prepared for a tough fight. Anyone who Googled “Sangin,” as many of the Marines heading there did, knew that subduing the “Fallujah of Afghanistan” would be a challenge. Before the British pulled out in September, they lost more than 100 troops in Sangin, nearly a third of their war dead.

The town of mud-walled homes and concrete block bazaar stalls in the far northeast of Helmand province is flanked by jagged peaks and a patchwork of poppy fields. Its stunning beauty, remoteness and access to a strategic crossroads made it a nexus for Taliban militants.

The British had shouldered much of the security burden in Helmand province since 2006. Troop levels forced them to focus on more populated areas while they struggled in Sangin to secure the main road, the district government offices and their military bases.

With British troops penned in under constant attack, the insurgents had free rein to run weapons, fighters and drugs. The Kabul administration seemed to write off Sangin as a lost cause. Helmand governor Gulab Mangal raged at the British, “stop calling it the Sangin District and start calling it the Sangin Base. All you have done here is built a military camp next to the city,” according to U.S. diplomatic cables first publicized by the WikiLeaks website.

A ferocious fight

When the 3/5 Marines arrived, they literally stepped into a minefield.

They were warned by another unit that took command for a few weeks after the British departed, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines from Twentynine Palms, that the density of homemade bombs dug into the dirt roads, paths, and bullet-pocked housing compounds of the Sangin valley was unlike anything international forces had encountered in Afghanistan or Iraq.


The new battalion started the tour losing 10 Marines killed and many more wounded within nine days, most of them to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Kilo Company’s introduction to Sangin began Oct. 14, when a patrol was attacked by streams of enemy machine gun fire. Amid the firefight, one Marine stepped on a homemade bomb. A minute later, a second Marine triggered another.

A Navy hospital corpsman, knowing he was surrounded by buried explosives, ran to help. He lost both his legs. Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood and Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez died, a squad leader was shot in the leg and incapacitated, and several other Marines suffered concussions.

With so many wounded and killed and stunned, a 26-year-old scout sniper leader operating in the distance, Sgt. Matthew Abbate, ignored the bomb threat and maneuvered in to take control. (In December, he too was killed, and the battalion nominated him for one of the Navy’s highest medals for valor in combat.)

That evening, with two platoons running low on ammunition, the company commander and his enlisted leaders walked into Patrol Base Fires to resupply the Marines. Insurgents had flooded the area to cut off the base. The only way in was a trek through mud.

“Fires was totally surrounded,” Capt. Nickoli Johnson recalled.

During the Korean War, the 3/5 Marines had been encircled by divisions of Chinese troops in the Chosin reservoir, Johnson reminded them, but the “Darkhorse” battalion broke out under extremely dire circumstances and fought its way to the sea.

“This is your opportunity to lead a breakout of your own. We’re going to go out there, we’re going to penetrate those defenses and we’re going to chase the enemy down. We’re going to punish them where they sleep and follow them wherever they go, until we break their backs,” he said.

In October, international air forces dropped more weapons on Afghanistan than in any other month since at least 2007. Most of the Hellfire missiles, 500-pound bombs and Excalibur artillery rounds, among other ordnance, supported the Marines in Sangin, where the ferocious fight continued for months.

At first the insurgents organized complex ambushes and fought toe to toe with the Marines from elaborate defenses, including perches in trees and firing ports gouged into mud walls. Later they relied increasingly on indirect attacks, including homemade bombs, assassinations and beatings to intimidate “collaborators.”

On several occasions, Marine positions were close to being overrun. At a patrol base protecting a power station, the small unit first assigned there made a warning system out of a string of soup cans. Insurgents threw death threats for their translator over the patrol base wall at night tied to corn stalks.

The mass casualties continued, but the Marines kept pushing out of their patrol bases, deep into Taliban territory.

The toll

Lt. Will Donnelly, a popular 27-year-old platoon commander known for his willingness to drive inebriated Marines home at all hours of the night, had finally convinced his longtime girlfriend to start a family. They married in the forest of Yosemite Park two weeks before he deployed. He was shot to death on Thanksgiving Day, and his men fought back to base with his body, firing rifles and throwing grenades.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Pearson, 21, and Lance Cpl. Matthew Broehm, 22, were murdered by a turncoat Afghan soldier who gunned them down on their patrol base while they were standing post. The Afghan man drank tea and watched music videos with the Marines before the attack as if nothing was amiss. He fled that night under cover of insurgent gunfire. When the Marines later realized it had been an inside job, their blood curdled in loathing and mistrust.

Lt. Robert Kelly, another popular platoon commander who made a point of leading from the front, was killed by an insurgent bomb buried in the bank of a canal. Many of the men he served with had no idea that the 29-year-old officer, who had previously served in the enlisted ranks, was the son of a three-star Marine Corps general.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Long, whose legs were blown off, among other grave injuries, felt that he died during the bomb strike. “I was walking to the light and I heard a voice tell me it’s not your time,’” he wrote in a letter to his rifle company.

“Which way do I go?” he asked.

“The way that you came,” the voice responded. Two days later his daughter was born. Wanting to be a father to her brought him back to life, he said.

Gaal, 22, who was promoted to squad leader in January after another Marine he admired died, said “there is really no way to prepare yourself for the first time that you see somebody’s legs get blown off, or you see one of your friends get killed.

“It sucks, but the situation that we’re in, you don’t have a lot of time to sit there and think about it. You just have to keep pressing on,” he said.

As waves of combat replacements deployed to Sangin, many seriously injured Marines hid their wounds to avoid being sent home. At least two who were shot and ordered back to Camp Pendleton to recover returned months later to Sangin to finish the tour.

At a memorial service in January for three of his Marines killed in action, Lt. Col. Jason Morris, the 3/5 Battalion commander, asked: “Where do we get men such as these, men who look death in the face and continue to move forward?”

The losses were painful, but they steeled the resolve of the Marines to punish the enemy, Johnson said. “It was like throwing gasoline on a fire that was already burning.”

During a shura meeting in January, an Afghan man approached the regimental commander in charge of northern Helmand at the time, Col. Paul Kennedy, and smashed him in the face with a rock, breaking his nose. A Marine in his security detail shot the Afghan dead.

That month, a squad reinforced with snipers and machine gunners battled the Taliban in a six-hour firefight, killing at least two dozen of them. The Marines were running low on ammunition for the second time that day, night was falling and they had chased the insurgents into another unit’s area of operations before the company commander ordered them back.

The Taliban had built a mystique of being magical warriors who appeared and disappeared like ghosts. But Sgt. Philip McCulloch, Jr., the 22-year-old squad leader, said: “There were motorcycles and dead Taliban all over the battlefield. It was something you don’t see every day out here.”

Breakthroughs

The closure of about half the British bases, including checkpoints lining the main route through town, had handed terrain secured at great cost back to the insurgents.

The decision was based on manpower and a more flexible patrolling strategy. By the time the Camp Pendleton 3/5 Marines arrived, the main road was full of bombs. To resupply its northern Sangin bases, the 20-minute drive required an all-day detour through the desert, where each convoy invariably hit a bomb.

In December, the Marines secured Route 611 during a two-week operation to clear the explosives. The operation was possible in part because of a mini surge of troops and other resources sent to the greater Sangin valley that helped the Marines fortify their positions and build new ones.

A company of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment that had been operating in Marjah took over one corner of the battalion’s area of operations, while reconnaissance Marines moved into another. Reservists from the 3/25 Battalion pitched in standing post and other duties in Sangin, and a company of tankers plus a battalion landing team of about 1,000 Marines reinforced their southern flank in Gereshk.

The influx was coupled with the infusion of extra Afghan paramilitary police forces early this year and the appointment of about a dozen district government officials, as a logjam of Afghan resources that had been particularly felt in Sangin began to break free across Helmand province, British and American civilian representatives said.

The added manpower and reopening of the road were among the factors that reached a tipping point in Sangin over the winter, resulting in a steep plunge in violence and newfound cooperation by formerly recalcitrant tribal elders. Another factor was the changing of the seasons, when head-high corn was harvested and leaves fell from the trees, depriving the enemy of cover, and cold rains degraded explosives.

The Marines assigned to the most heavily bomb-laden central areas had also learned the hard way early on that no technology was infallible and even the ground they stood on was not safe. Engineers assigned to sweep ahead of the patrols couldn’t always count on their metal detectors to find the bombs, so they shuffled their feet with small steps. “I make sure that I’ll be the one to step on it before any of these guys,” said 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Zachary Stangle.

The bomb threat is a numbers game in the insurgents’ favor, because the Marines may find 99 explosives, but it takes just one to kill. “Fortunately we are a learning organization, and the Marines obviously want to keep their legs. They want to stay alive. So they got very good at finding them,” said Morris, the 3/5 battalion commander.

By March the battalion had encountered more than 1,000 bombs in their area of central Sangin district. Only 145 of them were strikes. The rest were found or interdicted before they could harm. By comparison, the battalion was engaged in more than 520 firefights and killed or wounded about 470 enemy fighters in that time.

Bing West, a military historian who made several trips to Helmand province in the last year, said that the innate aggression of the U.S. Marine made the difference on the battlefield. “The Marines have won. No one wants to fight them anymore,” he said.

When Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, the Task Force Leatherneck commander, sent his theatre reserve of about 400 reconnaissance Marines into the far north of Sangin in late November, fighters swarmed to the area. The recon Marines killed hundreds within about five weeks, he said. “The insurgents attacked them in that position and basically just impaled themselves on the Marines.” The intense combat helped push the largest tribe in Sangin to a cease-fire, which was clinched in January after Afghan provincial officials showed the Alikozai around the bustling and relatively peaceful provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

The tribe broke with the Taliban in 2007, but insurgents crushed the Alikozai uprising, dragging one elder out of town behind a truck. Afghan and British forces stood by, unable or unwilling to intervene.

The latest security agreement did not live up to its promise, since attacks continued in Alikozai areas. But a steep drop in enemy activity allowed Marine engineers to finish grading and graveling Route 611 in March up to the Kajaki district border, Marine commanders said.

Rebuilding the road was central to the Marine strategy of “big stick COIN,” in Sangin — counterinsurgency operations that rely on both the carrot of development and the stick of combat power, said Lt. Col. Thomas West, a civil affairs Marine from Anaheim Hills.

“Securing that 611 route and taking it away from the Taliban is opening a huge avenue of stability,” said West, who was part of a companion surge of governance and development experts sent to Sangin. “It makes a vital economic corridor that the people here depend on.”

Capt. Abdul Hamid, 29, an Afghan army commander who has been stationed in Sangin for a year and a half, said that enemy flags and bombs used to surround the international coalition’s patrol bases. “Now, with the Marines’ help, some of the Taliban have turned in their weapons, and the people feel free to come and tell us about the IEDs. Now they know the government is dominant here.”

What’s next

The true test of whether the security gains the 3/5 Marines wrought in Sangin can be sustained will come this summer, after the poppy is harvested and the traditional fighting season is in full swing. Before their replacements took over in April — the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, also from Camp Pendleton — small groups of fighters had begun to infiltrate Sangin, causing an uptick in harassing shooting attacks.

Many Sangin residents say they are weary of war. Toward the end of their tour, so were many Marines. The glamour had worn off for many gung-ho infantrymen stationed in Sangin, who declared the boring patrols to be the best.

“We’ve done what we came out here to do. This place is a lot more stable now,” said Sgt. Ivan Teran, 24. “You’re not going to hear any of these guys saying ‘yeah, let’s get some!’ … They’ve experienced just about as much as you can experience being a grunt in the Marine Corps.”

The Darkhorse Marines fought on after seeing their best friends ripped limb from limb, over and over again — five times in the case of one lance corporal this reporter spoke to. The courage of this generation of Marines in the face of such an insidious weapon, “a weapon designed to maim, a weapon designed to have psychological impact by inflicting grotesque casualties,” made a deep impression on Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the senior Marine and NATO commander of southwestern Afghanistan for the last year.

“I’m just awed by their ability every day to disregard the danger and face the enemy,” knowing what each step could cost them, Mills said.

Back in San Diego, medical staff assembled a multipart plan to help the Marines and their families with the transition home.

Sangin changed them, the Marines conceded. They wouldn’t be human otherwise. But Stocking, the 27-year-old platoon sergeant serving his fourth combat tour, said he was not worried about their mental state. “Once everyone gets home they’re going to realize that the sky is so much bluer, the air breathes so much better,” he said.

“Guys that have been in this type of situation … they realize how good life really is.”


© Copyright 2011 The San Diego Union-Tribune LLC.



Monday, April 25, 2011

But what I meant to say was......Slick Mitt is at it again



The guy is soooooo desperate and it shows.....Mitt Romney maybe an OK person but he is NOT the LEADER we need as his style of leadership is all POL, all the time.....

We need LEADERSHIP and so far, trading " Barry from Chicago" for Slick Mitt would be bad....We need to get rid of both of these fools and find some real Leadership to help us out.....the problem is that person has yet to be found.....2012 election cycle is here and we have no real Leaders....


Romney learns even op-eds not safe
By Glen Johnson, Boston Globe Staff

Live by the op-ed, die by the op-ed.

Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.

The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message — but you also leave no one else to blame when there's trouble.


In a piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, Romney again excoriated President Obama for Standard & Poor's announcing that it was changing its long-term view for US treasuries from "stable to "negative."

While the rating agency retained the country's AAA bond rating, Romney jumped on its warning (which, incidentally, was directed at both to the White House and Congress).

"Barack Obama is facing a financial emergency on a grander scale," he wrote. "Yet his approach has been to engage in one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history. With its failed stimulus package, its grandiose new social programs, its fervor for more taxes and government regulations, and its hostility toward business, the administration has made the debt problem worse, hindered economic recovery and needlessly cost American workers countless jobs."

Romney's use of the word "peacetime" prompted questions in a country at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and which led a coalition no-fly zone over Libya. The first two actions were started by Obama's predecessor, fellow Republican President Bush; the latter was begun by the current president, a Democrat.

That inconsistency was pointed out by news organizations, as well as by the Democratic National Committee and Democrats in the lead presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

And that prompted Romney to issue a clarification this afternoon.

"He meant to say, `Since World War II,'" said spokeswoman Andrea Saul

Sunday, April 24, 2011

" It looks a lot better now..." BOSTON RED SOX are out of the cellar




I Concur, it does look a lot better now......GO RED SOX !!!

From the Boston Globe's "Extra Bases" Blog by Peter Abraham :

" The Sox were 2-9 at the time he was skipped and feelings could not be an issue. Their starters have been lights-out since (7-1, 0.88) with Lackey pitching two of those games.

The Sox have won eight of nine and at 10-11 are heading in the right direction.

“We dug ourselves a hole. Now we’re trying to dig out of it, Francona said. “It’s kind of like a hitter with a low batting average but feels good about himself. We’re starting to do some things better.”

As Lackey rebounds, Carl Crawford is 7 for 27 (.259) with three extra-base hits and five RBIs in his last seven games. He belted his first Red Sox homer today. Adrian Gonzalez is starting to heat up, too.

"We were fine when we were 2-10," Dustin Pedroia said. "But it looked bad. It looks a lot better now."


I agree with Dustin.

VW Concept Van.....not a hippies' van but hi-tech wheels for the future

VW keeps trying to bring back enough of what made them famous (cute cars that were endearing) and add in hi-tech aspects to make sure they are at the edge of innovation.....

I'm not sure that we'll see a pile of kids pile into this for a road trip to a Phish Concert...more likely this would be useful for trendy Urbanites heading out to IKEA.....

Volkswagen Bulli Concept Debuts at New York Auto Show
Anto Thermadam

April 24, 2011
www.nitrobahn.com

Volkswagen’s new Bulli Concept for America made its U.S. debut at the 2011 New York Auto Show. The new compact six-seat multipurpose vehicle that is based on the MDS or “modular design system platform” was previously launched at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

The zero-emissions vehicle is electrically powered using an electric motor that can generate a power output of 85 kW and a torque of 199 lb.-ft. The electric motor is supplied with energy from a lithium-ion battery with a maximum storage capacity of 40 kWh.

When it comes to performance, the new Bulli can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in about 11.5 seconds and with a top speed of 87 mph. The lithium-ion battery pack lets the Bulli Concept to a run a total of 186.4 miles on single charge.

Volkswagen had announced the availability of gas and diesel direct injection powertrains as alternative drives for the new Bulli Concept that was launched at Geneva Motor Show. But the German automaker has not made it clear whether the engine options will be there for the North American model.

The Volkswagen Bulli Concept that debuted at New York will also feature an infotainment system that’s solely controlled by an Apple iPad, the company added.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter ! A message of Hope, Rebirth & Faith from Afghanistan





Happy Easter from Bagram Air Base!

It is early on Easter Morning here and the sunrise is beautiful.




It was ten years ago on Easter 2001 that I sent the enclosed message to my son James who was out to sea on the carrier USS John C. Stennis, CVN-74.

Easter was my Mother's favorite holiday and to her it was the message of hope, rebirth & faith that made it special. Enclosed is the message I sent my son, and I send you with best wishes from Bagram.

All here is well and I'm getting used to the place. I'll be here for a bit and hope all enjoy a good Easter Day with Family.


COPY of E-mail sent Easter 2001 -

Happy Easter!



My son - It was too much for the Easter Bunny to swim out to meet your ship, but I want to wish you a Happy Easter - Like other holidays, I think Easter has gotten too far from what the true meaning of what it is really about - We are truly blessed with God's love - We are not together on this day, but we know you are safe - We are together in spirit, and united in our faith - The Lord has watched over us, and has guarded us through the past years - and He will be there as our Shepard as we go forward into an uncertain future -

We are very proud of the sacrifice you make to protect us each day - It is a honorable and noble cause to fight for our country & our way of life - In a world where our way of life and faith is under siege, we must continue to hold on to our faith, courage and honor - It is what separates us from the cowardly and despicable bastards that murder innocents in God's name - We will fight these villains, and Justice will prevail -

Enclosed is a passage from John 20:1-18 - it tells the story of the discovery of the Resurrection - Know that we await your safe return, and hope that your time will pass quickly -

We love & miss you - We are truly blessed by Jesus' & God's love.

Love -

Dad & Karen

John 20:1-18

20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,

20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

20:9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;

20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.

20:13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

20:15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

20:16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher).

20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pain at the pump has turned into pain at the polls for President Obama



This one is a no brainer...Gas was at $1.83 a gallon with the Idjit-in-charge was elected.....He promised us " Change".....we got it all right.....we're getting screwed while he fiddles and diddles.

Looks like it will be changing him out that will bring " HOPE" to most Americans.


Gasoline prices pose problems for Obama
By Alex Roarty
National Journal - 4/22/11

Pain at the pump has turned into pain at the polls for President Obama -- and it's putting the nation's top Democrat in a political bind between an anxious electorate and environmental allies.

Gallup's daily tracking poll showed Obama hitting an all-time low last week at 41 percent, a 10-point drop from mid-March. The downward slide was mirrored in an array of other surveys. And there's plenty of reason to believe that the drop has little to do with the issue that has consumed Washington lately -- the budget standoff -- and everything to do with gas prices that, according to the AAA, have soared more than a dollar a gallon in the past year.

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press listed gas prices as the financial concern that affects people the most, with 69 percent of Americans saying it affects them a lot. Only 7 percent said the rising cost of fuel doesn't affect them at all. Another Pew survey showed that more people are concerned with rising oil prices than with the federal deficit.

Even environmentalists, who want Obama to stick to his clean energy agenda, admit he's in a bind: Rising gas prices make it harder for him to sell his plan to move the nation away from fossil fuels while Republicans are demanding that he expand domestic oil production now.

"When I talk to people, everybody is complaining about gas prices," said Bob Keefe, spokesman for the Natural Resource Defense Council. "And the oil companies have a great slogan, 'drill, baby, drill,' … it's a great slogan but it just doesn't make sense. But that's tough when folks in the Washington area are paying more than 4 dollars a gallon."

Complicating the scenario for President Obama—who campaigned on a pledge to move the nation toward a "green economy"—are Democrats in Congress who come from states where fossil fuels equal jobs. A series of votes earlier this month on Environmental Protection Agency regulations highlighted the rift between the president and Democrats from coal states. And Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has been harshly critical of Obama's refusal to expand deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico—a potential boon to her state's economy.


Fretting about rising gas prices in spring isn't new, but there's reason to think the high cost is here to stay through the 2012 election. Analysts think it's even possible that the price of gas will hit $5 a gallon this summer (it was $2.80 per gallon just a year ago).

"Most Americans don't feel daily impact of exploding national debt," said Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer. "But this is one of those issues that whether you're a small business or family, rising gas prices take a greater and greater hit out of a paycheck that can only go so far."

Obama's not the first president to learn the inverse relationship between gas prices and his poll numbers. In the spring of 1979, President Jimmy Carter's Gallup Poll approval fell from 40 percent in April to as low as 28 percent in late June as unrest in Iran sent gas prices skyrocketing. In 1990, Americans rallied around President George H.W. Bush ahead of the Gulf War, but once gas prices started to rise, his approval ratings dipped nearly 25 points in just two months.

During the summer before the 2008 presidential election, surging gas prices made energy an issue and Republicans criticized then-candidate Obama for opposing expanding offshore oil drilling. Other issues, such as GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's gaffes and the meltdown on Wall Street, quickly overshadowed the nation's energy concerns, however.

Last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might have moved the public against offshore drilling, but a still-struggling economy combined with rising prices appears to have undone that sentiment. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week showed support for expanded offshore drilling has returned to pre-spill levels, with 69 percent in support. That was a 20-point jump in support from the same poll taken last year, as the oil spill was in progress.

Voters won't buy the president's denial that more drilling isn't necessary, said Steve Everley, manager of policy research for American Solutions, a Newt Gingrich-founded conservative group that focuses on energy policy.

"There is a political element wrapped up in all of this," Everley said. "He's telling the country we shouldn't do this, and an overwhelming majority is telling him, 'You're wrong.' He's going to have to go for broke on that message, or he's going to have to dramatically change course to make himself more in line with what the American people want."

There are signs that the president is concerned: He has touted the fact that there is more offshore drilling now than during President Bush's tenure. And on Thursday, at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nev., he promised to take aim at speculators who, he suggested, might be to blame for the upward spike in gas prices.

"We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of American consumers for their own short-term gain," he said

A Fear of Heights?? Not likely but maybe a lack of common sense



Here in the mountains of AFGHN, one looks at the Mountains in awe of what it would take to reach their peaks (and not get your Arse shot up by doing so)

Back home, a few daredevils take on Yosemite and show that they are either lacking a fear of heights or maybe a dose of common sense....YIKES!


Don't look down! Breathtaking images of fearless climbers scaling the heights of Yosemite without any safety ropes
By Paul Bentley - UK Daily Mail

In the enclosed picture, Alex Honnold scales the side of Half Dome - a route he first conquered aged 23.

The shot was taken for National Geographic by photographer and experienced climber Jimmy Chin.

Mr Chin, who has climbed the Yosemite rock formations for 15 years, said: 'We've had some pretty epic days. Yosemite is the epicentre of climbing. A lot of the greatest climbing feats in history have happened here - and they are happening right now.
'I started climbing here 15 years ago... It is really special for me to come back here and shoot with my peers.

'Climbers don't perform in an arena or a stadium. They don't have stands full of fans watching them. Really I see my job as being able to tell that story

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sebastian Junger bids farewell to his good friend Tim Hetherington

He now belongs to the Ages..... (insert sound of a sad kindred spirit here)

Sebastian Junger Remembers Tim Hetherington


The death of an incomparable photojournalist, killed on April 20 while covering the conflict in Libya, is recounted by his collaborator, confrère, and friend.


By Sebastian Junger
April 21, 2011

Tim, man, what can I say? For the first few hours the stories were confused enough that I could imagine maybe none of them were true, but they finally settled into one brief, brutal narrative: while covering rebel forces in the city of Misrata, Libya, you got hit by a piece of shrapnel and bled to death on the way to the clinic. You couldn’t have known this, but your fellow photographer Chris Hondros would die later that evening. I’m picturing you wounded in the back of a pickup truck with your three wounded colleagues. There are young men with bandannas on their heads and guns in their hands and everyone is screaming and the driver is jamming his overloaded vehicle through the destroyed streets of that city, trying to get you all to the clinic in time.

He didn’t. I’ve never even heard of Misrata before, but for your whole life it was there on a map for you to find and ponder and finally go to. All of us in the profession—the war profession, for lack of a better name—know about that town. It’s there waiting for all of us. But you went to yours, and it claimed you. You went in by boat because the city was besieged by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi (another name you probably never gave much thought to during your life) and you must have known this was a bad one. Boat trips are usually such nice affairs, but not this one. How strange to be out on the water off a beautiful coastline with the salt smell and the wind in your face—except this time, you’re headed toward a place of violence and killing and destruction. You must have known that the unthinkable had to be considered. You must have known you might not ever get back on that boat alive.

You and I were always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with, right? The one who made us feel the most special, the most alive? We were always trying to have one more dance with her without paying the price. All those quiet, huddled conversations we had in Afghanistan: Where to walk on the patrols, what to do if the outpost gets overrun, what kind of body armor to wear. You were so smart about it, too—so smart about it that I would actually tease you about being scared. Of course you were scared—you were terrified. We both were. We were terrified and we were in love, and in the end, you were the one she chose.

I’m in the truck with you. I’m imagining those last minutes. You’re on your back watching the tops of the buildings jolt by and the blue Mediterranean sky beyond them. I almost drowned once, and when I finally got back to the beach I was all alone and I just lay there watching the clouds go by. I’d never really thought about clouds before, but there they were, all for me, just glorious. Maybe you saw those clouds, too, but you weren’t out of it yet, and you probably knew it. I know what you were thinking: What a silly way to die. What a silly, selfish, ridiculous mistake to have made.

Don’t think that, brother. You had a very specific vision for your work and for your life, and that vision included your death. It didn’t have to, but that’s how it turned out. I’m so sorry, Tim. The conversation we could have had about this crazy stunt of yours! Christ, I would have yelled at you, but you know that. Getting mad was how we kept each other safe, how we kept the other from doing something stupid.

Your vision, though. Let’s talk about that. It’s what you wanted to communicate to the world about this story—about every story. Maybe Misrata wasn’t worth dying for—surely that thought must have crossed your mind in those last moments—but what about all the Misratas of the world? What about Liberia and Darfur and Sri Lanka and all those terrible, ugly stories that you brought such humanity to? That you helped bring the world’s attention to?

After the war in Liberia you rented a house in the capital, and lived there for years. Years. Who does that? No one I know except you, my dear friend. That’s part of Misrata, too. That’s also part of what you died for: the decision to live a life that was thrown open to all the beauty and misery and ugliness and joy in the world. Before this last trip you told me that you wanted to make a film about the relationship between young men and violence. You had this idea that young men in combat act in ways that emulate images they’ve seen—movies, photographs—of other men in other wars, other battles. You had this idea of a feedback loop between the world of images and the world of men that continually reinforced and altered itself as one war inevitably replaced another in the long tragic grind of human affairs.

That was a fine idea, Tim—one of your very best. It was an idea that our world very much needs to understand. I don’t know if it was worth dying for—what is?—but it was certainly an idea worth devoting one’s life to. Which is what you did. What a vision you had, my friend. What a goddamned terrible, beautiful vision of things.

Sebastian Junger is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair.

Mark the date on your calendar.....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RIP Tim Hetherington...a great one has been lost

I echo Sebastian Junger's words, " “I can’t believe he’s truly gone.”....I was moved by the work Tim did on Restrepo and we are a smaller world for losing someone who gave do much of himself to others.

The enclosed picture shows Tim on the right with Sebastian Junger at COP RESTREPO in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Restrepo’ director and acclaimed photographer killed in fighting in Libya
Washington Post -20April 2011

The journalists had accompanied rebel fighters to Tripoli Street in the city center, which Gaddafi’s forces pounded with mortars in an attempt to retake the strategic road that divides that city. An ambulance rushed Hetherington and Guy Martin, a British freelance photographer working for the agency Panos, from the battle to the makeshift triage tent adjacent to the Hikma hospital about 5 p.m. Hetherington arrived bleeding heavily from his leg and looking very pale.

“Come with me. Come with me. Everybody is injured,” American photographer Katie Orlinsky, who had seen the attack, shouted to ambulance drivers, imploring them to return to the scene. Her bulletproof vest was splattered with blood. “I’ll come with you. I’ll show you where they are.”

As she sought help, doctors attended to Hetherington and Martin, who had suffered a stomach wound and remained in surgery Wednesday evening. About 15 minutes after the ambulance’s arrival, doctors in the tent pronounced Hetherington dead.

About 10 minutes later, another ambulance carried Hondros and Michael Christopher Brown, who also suffered shrapnel wounds, to the triage unit. Doctors examining a scan of Hondros’s brain explained that shrapnel had hit the photographer in the forehead and passed through the back of his head. They asked a reporter at the hospital to look after his battered helmet. Brown’s medical condition was considered less dire.

The group of American and British photojournalists were following rebels into heavy fighting. “I told them not to gather,” one rebel outside the tent recalled advising the photographers about the dangers of sticking too close together. “They hit groups. I told them not to.”

Emma Daly, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, confirmed Hondros’s death.
Hetherington’s family released a statement mourning their loss: “It is with great sadness we learned that our son and brother photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington was killed today in Misrata , Libya by a rocket-propelled grenade.” They added, “Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed.”

Cathy L. Saypol, Hetherington’s manager, said in an interview that she learned of his death as she spoke on the phone with author Sebastian Junger, with whom Hetherington had directed the Oscar-nominated documentary.

“There is no way to expres my devestation and sorrow at the death of my dear friend,” Junger said in a statement. He added, “I can’t believe he’s truly gone.”
Hetherington and Junger were recently in Libya together, working on an assignment for Vanity Fair, according Beth Kseniak, a spokeswoman for the magazine. Hetherington was not on assignment for the magazine at the time of his death, she said.

Hetherington and Hondros are the third and fourth reporters, and the first Western journalists, killed in Libya since fighting began in February, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Hetherington, the recipient of the 2007 World Press Photo Award for his photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan for Vanity Fair, reported on the heavy bombardment earlier in the week via his Twitter account. “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata,” he wrote. “Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

“It is overall quite bad,” Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, a spokeswoman for the committee, said of the situation in Libya. “As we speak, there are journalists — at least 18 — missing and detained, and we don’t know their fate.”

Last week, Hondros arrived in Misurata by hitching a ride on the Ionian Spirit, a ship dispatched to evacuate foreign workers from the embattled city. During the voyage, he and Hetherington helped prepare lunch bags and wrapped sandwiches for the workers who were expected to board. Hondros told the colleagues about his recent engagement to a woman from New York. “I don’t want to be a really old dad,” he confided.

On Wednesday evening, that same vessel waited at port in Misurata for another cargo of migrant workers but was enlisted for a different mission. Before Hondros died, the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch reached out to the ship’s handlers and asked whether it could be used to ferry Hondros and Martin back to Benghazi for additional medical care. Instead, the bodies of Hetherington and Hondros were due to leave aboard the Ionian Spirit on Wednesday evening

Stops along the way...

The post I added about getting to Bagram, I neglected to include our stop-over from Qatar to Baghdad International Airport enroute to Bagram...The USAF C-17 had to pick-up cargo there to take along with us to Bagram.

I was stationed there at BIAP for about two weeks while on active duty in 2004.

The Hangar building where I worked/lived/dodged fire was about 300 yards away from where our plane stopped. We had to disembark while they reconfigured the cargo and it was the strangest feeling to be right there where I was stationed back in late 2004. This time it was very peaceful and that alone was weird...The Main Terminal across the way has been rebuilt as the last time I saw it was bombed out and burnt.

I wasn't able to take a picture as it is on the flightline....But I will remember being right back there for the second time, remembering when that place was the Wild West......I never expected to see it again but chance takes us to places we can never imagine seeing again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greetings from Bagram Air Field Afghanistan....

Arrived yesterday evening just as dusk was setting in - the place is pretty big and the mountains that surround it are impressive...kinda looks like they could have shot a Coors commercial here.....Just got to check in, get some chow and find my new home away from home.....Place is congested, and that's saying quite a bit as I thought KAF and other places over here were so but Bagram takes it hands down...packed in real tight

Qtrs are very basic - B-huts which are plywood - Everything is within walking distance (showers, chowhall, MWR ctr.) - I'll get a chance to tour around the base later on as the day get going......it is early here (330 AM) and I couldn't sleep (still on east coast time) so I headed down to the MWR

Hope all is well stateside......more later on - glad to see the Boston Red Sox have won three in a row....there may be hope for these guys yet.....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Calls it like it is......

Article in the CSM pretty much sums it up.......POTUS' approval rating is lower than whale snot at the bottom of the ocean.....and rightly so.....he spent trillions and we are WORSE off than before.......

Obstacles to Obama's reelection, starting with low public opinion
By Brad Knickerbocker – Sun Apr 17, Christian Science Monitor


As he launches into a week of town hall meetings, freshly invigorated by his tougher talk on a political vision that includes more taxes for the wealthy and protection for progressive programs, President Obama faces a tough political reality.

He’s as low as he’s ever been in the eyes of the public – particularly among the independent voters he’ll need to win reelection next year.
In that sense, he’s in at least some good company. Among recent presidents, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton faced a similar obstacle in their first term. Reagan and Clinton survived; Carter was shown the door.

The latest Gallup Daily tracking three-day average shows 41 percent of Americans (and only 35 percent of independents) approving of the job Obama is doing as president. That ties his low, registered three times previously – twice in August 2010 and once in October 2010.

“President Obama is now as unpopular as he has been at any time since he became president,” Jeffrey Jones writes in a Gallup analysis of the most recent polling.

The bump-along economy and high gas prices at the pump are among major factor, Gallup finds, plus the tea party-fueled House of Representatives now run by Republicans.
“His ability to navigate these challenges will help determine whether he will be elected to a second term as president,” Jones writes.
Winning that second term now becomes virtually a full-time job, since everything a president does has a political dimension testing his ability to communicate his specific position as well as broader vision.
How well can he be expected to do? At this point, two prominent conservative columnists come to very different conclusions.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see that Obama is very likely to be reelected,” writes David Brooks of the New York Times, who notes that Obama “hit the political sweet spot with his speech” at George Washington University last Wednesday.
“Every few years, Republicans try to reform the welfare delivery systems to make them more marketlike.” Brooks writes. “Every few years, voters, even Republican voters, reject this. The situation today is slightly less hostile to these ideas, but not much.”
Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal begs to differ.
“Barack Obama can be taken, and his adversaries haven't even noticed,” she wrote Saturday. “In fact, he will likely lose in 2012.”
Her reasoning?
“Internationally, he's involved in a confused effort that involves bombing Libyan government troops and sometimes their rebel opponents, leaving the latter scattered and scurrying…. Domestically, the president's opponents seized the high ground on the great issue of the day, spending and debt, and held it after the president's speech this week. In last week's budget duel, the president was outgunned by Republicans in the House and outclassed by Paul Ryan, who offered seriousness and substance as a unique approach to solving our fiscal problems.”
Noonan points to other polls bringing bad news for Obama: An Ipsos survey with 69 percent of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track; a Zogby poll with just 38 percent of respondents saying Obama deserves reelection.
The White House and Obama’s reelection brain trust in Chicago are reading the same polls, of course.
Obama’s strength in 2008 was his ability to rouse and inspire not only his younger, more liberal base but independents and many moderate Republicans as well. The differences with John McCain – in style even more so than in substance – made all the difference. Obama was much better at connecting with individuals, small groups, and mass rallies. And of course, he was so totally new in terms of age, race, and background.
He’s not new anymore.
So this week Obama will conduct three town hall meetings – one in northern Virginia, one in Reno, Nev., and one streamed live on Facebook from company headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. He’ll also attend political fund raisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The Obama campaign is expected to spend upwards of $1 billion getting him reelected. Given the way things are going – at least in the polls – he may need every bit of that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brave Sir Barack (with apologies to Monty Python)

He's a poser that's for sure - This rerminds me of a Monty Python song called "Brave Sir Robin" which we will retitle to "Brave Sir Barack" (with apologies to all the Monty Pyton Fans out there)
Brave Sir Barack ran away

Bravely, ran away...away...

When danger reared its ugly head

He bravely turned his tail and fled

Yes, brave Sir Barack turned about

And gallantly he chickened out

Bravely taking to his feet

He beat a very brave retreat

Bravest of the brave, Sir Barack


He is packing it in and packing it up

And sneaking away and buggering off

And chickening out and pissing off home,

Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge.

And the hits just keep on coming.....Higher Gas Prices for you while POTUS stands by...

Gas prices are sky high again.....when the "Idjit-in-charge " was elected, the average price for gas was $ 1.83 p/gallon....Today, the average is over DOUBLE that figure.......

There's the "Change" the empty suit promised us.....with the 2012 election coming up soon, I fall back to the words of another candidate for the Presidency, and ask you to think about this as the upcoming election cycle approaches,

" ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE 4 YEARS AGO????"

And with that answer, you now know what should be done, and throw the bum out.

GAS PRICES APPROACH RECORD HIGH

(Fox 25/MyFoxBoston.com) - Gas prices rise again in Massachusetts but experts say the pain at the pump may get much worse.

AAA reports Bay State drivers saw gasoline climb by another 5 cents a gallon this week.

Experts predict that gas could hit 5 dollars a gallon by Memorial Day if the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa continues.
 

Greetings from Qatar

Hanging out here in Qatar with the USAF......in transit and awaiting a ride to AFGHN via MILAIR. I got here via Qatari Airways and the service was awesome......If you have to travel overseas, I highly recommend Qatari Airways....

The base here is not too bad and the troops have most of the comforts of home.....PX, 24 hour a day DFAC, Subway, Pizza Hut, access to WIFI, etc. The weather has been cloudy and we were greeted with at thunderstorm upon arrival late on Saturday.

All is well and the accommodations are basic.....sharing a large tent with about 20 others but one makes the best of what is provided.

Hope all is well where you are. I'm able to report that America's finest, your military, are here and doing an awesome job. The separation from home is the toughest part for all but we'll make the best of it until we can get some R&R.

More later on from AFGHN once I get there......standing by to stand by.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Hard........Back to Afghanistan

The day has come and I will be leaving for Afghanistan later today....The process of getting from "here" to " there" is not easy as you are flying for a long time and crossing way too many time zones.

The mission is to assist the military and the people of Afghanistan. The difference each of us makes in other's lives is how we leave a legacy behind as we pass through our time here of God's good Earth. I am glad to have contributed to the success of our war fighters and the citizen of Afghanistan. The payoff will come in the generations to come who will see a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

I will also look forward to catching up with friends that are still there working hard each day.

The work is hard, the hours are long and the location is inherently dangerous. My wife will also have to deal with running the home front on her own which is no small task.....I am glad to have her there and we both acknowledge each other's efforts in the partnership we have shared for almost 23 years....She is the best thing in my life.

I'll be offline until I arrive over there...no worries.....Middleboro Jones will be able to update you on a regular basis.....

The situation is in line with a discussion between Tom Hank's character, Jimmy Dugan and Geena Davis's character Dottie Hinson regarding the challenges we all face in life :

Jimmy Dugan: Taking a little day trip?
Dottie Hinson: No, Bob and I are driving home. To Oregon.
Jimmy Dugan: [long pause] You know, I really thought you were a ballplayer.
Dottie Hinson: Well, you were wrong.
Jimmy Dugan: Was I?
Dottie Hinson: Yeah. It is only a game, Jimmy. It's only a game, and, and, I don't need this. I have Bob; I don't need this. At all.
Jimmy Dugan: I, I gave away five years at the end my career to drink. Five years. And now there isn't anything I wouldn't give to get back any one day of it.
Dottie Hinson: Well, we're different.
Jimmy Dugan: Shit, Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.
Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Mighty Pen......

The pen is mightier than the sword......and it also appears that the pen was able enough to make sure Apollo 11 got home from the Moon....True history is always more interesting than anything the writers can dream up......


Apollo 11 — One Small Switch, One Giant Problem
Published: Thursday, 14 Apr 2011 | 1:01 PM ET Text Size
By: Jane Wells
CNBC Correspondent


Twitter LinkedInMore Share
The world is celebrating 50 years of humans in space, considered by many to be our species' greatest achievement. Nothing may be more spectacular than Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. What makes it especially amazing is how much of that feat was done with slide rules and basic engineering.

And circuit breakers.

Which broke.

In what may be one of the most fascinating pieces of space history, two sheets from the checklist Armstrong and Aldrin had on the Moon is up for auction next month at Bonhams. The sheets include handwritten notes by Aldrin scribbled as the two astronauts were on the lunar surface, shortly before Aldrin discovers a potentially fatal development (this after they'd almost run out of fuel landing).


Source: Bonhams.com

The checklist, expected to fetch $30,000 to $40,000, looks almost primitive.

My father used to test the Mark 46 torpedo electrical systems when he worked for Bendix back in the same era, and it looks like something he'd work off of.

The list starts with steps the two astronauts were supposed to go through "after completing our rest period."

You've gotta be made of tough stuff to "rest" while being the first men on the Moon.

I would be a little amped up.

The scribbled notes on the checklist were written by Aldrin, detailing instructions from Mission Control on what to do if they had trouble with computer programs tracking the orbiting Columbia command ship, where Michael Collins waited for the Eagle to return.

"This is one of the few sheets that actually has some mission notes made during our lunar surface stay," Aldrin says in a letter that comes with the items. "They were written just hours before leaving the Moon after history's first manned lunar surface exploration."

But it turns out the pen was mightier than the checklist. After scribbling the notes, as he and Armstrong prepared to leave the Moon, Aldrin writes, "I noticed that the ascent engine arming breaker push/pull switch was broken. Apparently during movement wearing our large space suit 'backpacks,' either Neil or I bumped into this panel and broke off that particular switch."

This was not good.

"Mission Control verified that the switch was open, meaning that the engine was currently unarmed. If we could not get the engine armed, we could be stranded on the Moon."

One small switch. One giant problem.

So Aldrin quickly started thinking of a solution. He didn't need help from a complex computer analysis, because the situation did not involve a complex computer. It was a simple switch. "As it turned, out," Aldrin says, "the very pen I used to record these notes was the perfect tool to engage this circuit breaker." Which is exactly what happened.

Who says modern technology is necessarily better?


© 2011 CNBC.com

Unemployment numbers spike again...another sign that the present Administration hasn't got a clue about how tough it is for American Workers

Wow....The unemployment numbers spiked last week while the feckless fools in the Administration were bleating and braying about how things are sooooooo much better....IN THE REAL WORLD, ( a place they don't live in, unlike the rest of us) people are still dealing with a morbid economy, higher prices for oil, groceries, and everything else.....

Is it any wonder why people are eager to change out the present resident of the White House for someone who can truly lead the nation?? The only issue comes back to who will the other side present??? Presently, the field of potential candidates is not offering anyone much "HOPE" for real " CHANGE ".....they really have no one to offer up.....and that's a big problem if we have hope of sending "Barry" back to Chicago where he belongs.


New unemployment claims surge to 412,000

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporterApril 14, 2011: 9:25 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign that the job market's road to recovery remains bumpy.

The number of initial claims increased to 412,000 in the week ended Apr. 9, up 27,000 from the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday. The figure was the highest in two months and surprised economists, who were expecting 385,000 new claims.

The spike disrupted the downhill move in jobless claims, which had been coming in below the 400,000-mark for four consecutive weeks.

"Given the underlying downward trend, we are inclined to see it as a one-time fluke," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Shepherdson added that the Labor Department cited unusually large layoffs at the end of the quarter as a factor pushing claims higher.

Still, the 4-week moving average of initial filings-- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- remained below that threshold at 395,750, up 5,500 from the previous week.

Record number of Americans get government help
Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for ongoing claims decreased 58,000 to 3,680,000 in the week ended Apr .2, the latest data available. That's the lowest figure since September 2008, and below economists' estimates for 3,700,000 continuing claims.