The Army Unveils New, California-Friendly Uniforms

Every 18 months or so, each military branch unveils a new uniform change. Just this last week, I was told that my coveralls (that I got back when I was enlisted) would no longer be a valid Navy uniform. Apparently, we are moving to a non-flammable coverall. (Which I intend to blog in, to prevent vitriol generated by this post from harming me.) That said, I think the Army is taking the “let’s-recruit-the-heck-out-of-San-Franscico” thing too far:

Baltimore Raven fans at their Super Bowl victory party on the field.

Baltimore Raven fans at their Super Bowl victory party at M&T Stadium. (Not in the Navy or Army.)

Just kidding, this is a shot of Baltimore Raven fans celebrating their Super Bowl win. (Got ya for a second.) Go to the link to hear Ed Reed belting out Eddie Money’s Two Tickets to Paradise.

Have Faith, the Ensigns Are Here!

EnsignEnsign is a special rank in the Navy. It is the first tour for newb officers and folks approach them differently. I try to be jovial with the Enswines. It is easy to give ‘em a hard time, I had a couple of folks think it funny to rib me (more than my share) when I rocked the golden bars.

So I am sitting in a housing brief and the retired Army guy giving the lecture turns to the four Ensigns at the end of the table and asks: Hey, what is wrong with you guys? You all look constipated!

I smile and before I could engage my filter, I mutter loudly: Ah you know, they’re Ensigns. 

Right you are, the briefer replies squinting at their rank. Relax guys. . . 

He finishes the brief and I dart a look or two back at the Ensign crew. One of them returns the look with a frown.

Later, I see three of them at the bustop. And one of them again looks at me askance.

EnsignSo I roll up jovially, introduce myself, and chat with them. Where did you go to school? What community are you in? What ship are you going to? Watch out for this. . . Keep an eye on this job if you want to lateral transfer into this. . . General Navy gouge for the boys.

Moral of the story: If you are an Ensign, relax and stay focused. If you are not an Ensign, for goodness sakes, help the lads out. There has got to be better ways to loosen up the Ensign crew than the old way, injecting their gizzards with copious quantities of rum.

Naked Dudes and Flat Tires: Wassup!

Naked Dudes and Flat TiresAs I type this, I am sitting in Panera. It is four in the afternoon and I am waiting patiently, in uniform, for the tire repair shop across the street to finish patching my tire. Twenty minutes ago, I drove over a piece of chain-link fence, giving me a very slow leak. The tired tire guy sprayed the hole with Windex where I pulled the piece of chain-link out and indeed the puncture was bubbling.

At the repair shop, a man walked up to me with an excuse me, sir? He then thanked me for me service. In a very heartfelt, humble way. I shook his hand and thanked him with a it’s my honor and privilege.  

And then just ten minutes ago, as I am waiting to cross the street, three Hispanic high school kids chatted me up. Hey, one of them asked,  Army or Navy? He wore rosary beads around his neck and his hair was spiky.

Navy, I replied.

Wassup! he yelled. YELLED. 

I ignored him. Even though one of his buddies talked about joining the Air Force. I’d no time for silliness. I had to get over to Panera to hit my orange juice. And to write this.

As for my title and naked dudes,  I was at my gym this morning, changing into my uniform after a great workout. Someone several lockers away bellowed, excuse me. I ignored him. I did not know anyone at that Encinitas gym. The heavy rains had necessitated that I take different roads to the freeway. So I decided to drive over to the coast. Good thing I belong to a gym with locations all over San Diego.

Soldier! the man insisted.

Naked Dudes and Flat TiresI guess he was talking to me. Yes, I replied turning to a naked dude.

Thanks for doing what you do. And he shook my hand.

Just writing this, makes me shake my head. Naked dudes and flat tires, WASSUP!

Update: I really must thank Evans Tires for doing the job for free! Great Americans, all of them.

Among Soldiers, There Exists Honor

There is a certain code, or there used to be used to be a certain code, amongst soldiers. (I am not sure it applies to our bearded frenemies in that East between the Far and the Near.) This story perfectly illustrates the point:

I was Artillery in the Army. In 1984 we went to Japan to exercise with the JGSDF in an exercise called Michinoku 84. We were there long enough to get a few weekends free. On one of our jaunts we went into the local city. For the life of me I can’t remember it’s name. I need to go back to my old journal and refresh my memory. Anyway, while there we did what all American tourists do I imagine. We hit a restaurant that looked like a little slice of home. A McDonalds. It was different. You ordered and then sat down and had the food delivered to the table. They served rice instead or french fries. There were at least a half dozen of us. Young, loud, hungry GIs, none of whom spoke a word of Japanese. After several minutes of pidgin English and wild gesticulations we were interrupted by an elderly Japanese gentleman. He got the gist of what we wanted and then shooed us off to a table. He placed our order and paid for the entire meal. It had to have cost him a bundle. Prices were high anyway and for beef they were outrageous. He came and sat with us, refusing all offers to pay him back. We talked as we ate and found out he’d been an Artillery officer in the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. He’d seen combat.

Please do read it all. . .

Navy Provides Safe Haven for Army

Breaking the Law by Hiding Behind the Army

A delicious foie gras slider, served at the Presidio Social Club restaurant in San Francisco

Follow me on this one. The Presidio Social Club broke the law by serving foie gras, which is illegal in California. The argument: the restaurant is on the Presido, the old Army base, federal land.

And not guided by the laws of the state:

Housed in a converted infantry barracks on a former U.S. Army base, the Presidio Social Club never attracted much attention from San Francisco’s avid gourmets — until Saturday night.

That’s when foie gras lovers descended on the restaurant to have their first taste of the delicacy since California imposed a ban on July 1.

Animal rights activists fought for the law because they detest the way foie gras is made: farmers force-feed ducks or geese to fatten their livers. Some fans of traditional French cuisine find the ban just as hard to swallow.

The restaurant owner, Ray Tang, and its general manager, Maureen Donegan, reasoned that the restaurant can legally ignore state law because the Presidio, now managed mostly as a national park, has remained federal property even after being decommissioned by the Army.

I gotta go get dinner. That burger looks delicious. . .

Soldiers Eat Up All the Donuts

Dear readers, I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help posting this question posed by a 17 year-old over at Yahoo Answers:

WHY DONT SOLDIERS MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

THEY love to poke their nose in everyones affairs, they waste the nations money trying to look cool and stronger than everyone else. they eat up all donuts that everyday to day citizens can’t have a decent breakfast, they throw puppies over cliffs, and use babies as shooting targets, why are we supporting this!? soldiers deserve no freedoms when they take other peoples freedoms in other countries away. they dont deserve life when they take other peoples lives away!
sincerely, 17 yr old genius!

Darn Army. Why they gotta be eating up all the donuts? The Navy needs some too!

The Avengers and the Military

So the Avengers’ PR folks decided to invite some warriors to their premiere. In the words of the organizers: “the local heroes, we are celebrating that night: members of the police department, firefighters, U.S. military, and first responders.”

Who are the Avengers, you might ask? The stars are:

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo stomping in as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. . .

Actress Cobie Smulders, center, poses with members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army before the premiere of The Avengers during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Private News

Good news for all you Privates, the military has come out with ballistic underwear:

Colonel, Underwear

The “ballistic boxers” seem to be working better. The heavy silk boxers, which look like shorts that professional cyclists wear, won’t stop a bullet or shrapnel from an IED. But the silk can stop small projectiles like those kicked up by an explosion.

“It is expected to prevent fine sands and particles that are thrown up by explosives, so that the tissue wounds are cleaner, less ragged and easier to treat,” said Lt. Jamie Larson, a Marines Corps spokesperson said in May.

No word on whether the other ranks, outside of Private, enjoy the underwear as much.

Goodbye Iraq

As a former Iraqi Linguist, it feels odd not to have a sizable footprint in that country. We, in the military, have spent so much time centered on the region.

A sober reminder:

As the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on Sunday, friends and family of the first and last American fighters killed in combat were cherishing their memories rather than dwelling on whether the war and their sacrifice was worth it.

Nearly 4,500 American fighters died before the last U.S. troops crossed the border into Kuwait. David Hickman, 23, of Greensboro was the last of those war casualties, killed in November by the kind of improvised bomb that was a signature weapon of this war.

Please say a prayer, if you are so inclined, for David Emanuel Hickman and all of our guys who were injured or died in the conflict.

Army Paratrooper David Emanuel Hickman, KIA Baghdad

Godspeed Brother. . .

Major General Patrick Henry Brady, United States Army, Medal of Honor Recipient

Remember the the Next Great Military Blogpost? A reader, Coastie, sent me the below story:

Before I was in the Coast Guard, I did a tour in Reagan’s Army as a 71Q1P, Photojournalist.  I was one of the editors on the Paraglide, the base newspaper at Fort Bragg.  We were pretty good and in 1987 we won the Keith L. Ware award for best newspaper (CE category) in the Army.  The Army Chief of Public Affairs, a one-star, came to present the award.

Major General Patrick Henry Brady

Now a good soldier can tell a lot about someone’s career just by reading their ribbons and badges.  This fellow had a lot of them and one of them was the big one, the one everyone in the military knows.  Another “guest of honor” and I (and the irony there did not miss us) were trying to figure out how to ask this General what he had done to earn the Medal of Honor and eventually we just walked up to him during the low-key reception and asked.  Politely of course.  He just smiled and said “You know I had a bad day in Vietnam once.”

And that was it.  One of the nation’s great heroes and, as I have since found to be the case with most heroes, humble to a fault.  That’s how I met Brig. Gen. Patrick Brady.

Before retiring, BG Brady was promoted to Major General. The MOH citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Maj. Brady distinguished himself while serving in the Republic of Vietnam commanding a UH-1H ambulance helicopter, volunteered to rescue wounded men from a site in enemy held territory which was reported to be heavily defended and to be blanketed by fog. To reach the site he descended through heavy fog and smoke and hovered slowly along a valley trail, turning his ship sideward to blow away the fog with the backwash from his rotor blades. Despite the unchallenged, close-range enemy fire, he found the dangerously small site, where he successfully landed and evacuated 2 badly wounded South Vietnamese soldiers. He was then called to another area completely covered by dense fog where American casualties lay only 50 meters from the enemy. Two aircraft had previously been shot down and others had made unsuccessful attempts to reach this site earlier in the day. With unmatched skill and extraordinary courage, Maj. Brady made 4 flights to this embattled landing zone and successfully rescued all the wounded. On his third mission of the day Maj. Brady once again landed at a site surrounded by the enemy. The friendly ground force, pinned down by enemy fire, had been unable to reach and secure the landing zone. Although his aircraft had been badly damaged and his controls partially shot away during his initial entry into this area, he returned minutes later and rescued the remaining injured. Shortly thereafter, obtaining a replacement aircraft, Maj. Brady was requested to land in an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped. A mine detonated near his helicopter, wounding 2 crewmembers and damaging his ship. In spite of this, he managed to fly 6 severely injured patients to medical aid. Throughout that day Maj. Brady utilized 3 helicopters to evacuate a total of 51 seriously wounded men, many of whom would have perished without prompt medical treatment. Maj. Brady’s bravery was in the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

A fitting tribute on this day, 70 years after Pearl Harbor. Thanks Coastie. As is usual, please feel free to forward any military stories, folks. . .

Operation Hero: The Army Finds an Iraqi Dog and Brings Her to the United States

Malinois

Dogs and the military go together like bacon and eggs.

On a deployment, I once approached a leashed Malinois, the Belgian cousin to a German Shepherd. They are military working dogs (MWDs) and probably should not be bothered. But I chatted up the handler anyway, who let me pet the dog. It was a little slice of home in a place most assuredly not.

And at NAVCENT, I used to pause at the Military Working Dog (MWD) kennel, to see if any of the pooches were out and about.

So when I saw this picture:

Hero, Justin Rollins’ dog

And then read the story, a blog entry by an ABC News 20/20 reporter, I was hooked. The media team had traveled to Newport, New Hampshire to speak to Army Specialist Justin Rollins’ family. Justin was an 82nd Airborne Soldier, stationed in Samara, Iraq. And he had tragically passed away from an IED explosion.

The family had a picture of their son holding Hero up from when the dog had been a puppy. And he had sent it to his fiancee, Brittney Murray, the day before he had died.

Army Specialist Justin Rollins and Hero the Dog

The family asked the Army brass at Justin’s funeral if they could find the dog from the above picture. Push comes to shove and the Army runs Operation Hero. Of course, they locate the lucky canine and deliver her to the Rollins.

The ABC reporter, Kimberly Launier, had the following to say about the picture of Hero standing in the ray of light:

I was filming soldier Justin Rollin’s parents Skip and Rhonda playing with their dog Hero, whose rescue from the Iraq War zone where Justin died was nothing short of a miracle.

Sometimes when Rhonda hugged Hero she would softly pet her face and coo, “Justin, are you in there?”  It was Rhonda’s gentle way of remembering their son and his last living connection to Hero. At one point, Hero wandered off and took a stroll in the backyard. All of a sudden, the clouds broke and a light began to solidify in a beam directly down on Hero — a kind of vertical halo.

What a great picture, moving story. After the dog returned to the States, Hero traveled to New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes’s office. And guess what Hero did?

The puppy soon hit the tarmac, and began earning impressive frequent flier miles traveling from Iraq, Bahrain, Brussels and New York before finally landing in New Hampshire to a full-blown media circus fit for a rock star. At Congressman Paul Hodes’s office, little Hero claimed the territory her own.

She christened the carpet,” remembered Rhonda.

Reporters crowd Hero

I am a sucker for dog stories. Cat tales? Sure, why not. Here’s one, nothing more than an after-dinner mint really.

Matilda III is the house cat at the Algonquin Hotel. If the hotel’s name sounds familiar, it should. It was home to Dorothy Parker and the Round Table. As for Matilda:

The city’s favorite feline, a blue-eyed ragdoll, took up residence last winter. She’s the 10th Algonquin cat since Rusty, aka Hamlet I, moved into the hotel, legendary home of the “Round Table” literary salon, in 1932.

The pampered pussies are as much a part of The Algonquin’s cozy confines as the oak paneling and upholstered chairs and sofas. Hotel staff have delighted in pointing out Matilda’s hiding places to guests.

Matilda III at the Algonquin Hotel

New York City’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene has struck again. The cat now must be caged or leashed.

So the city can’t sweep some hippies, the Occupy Wall Streeters, out of a park. And the mayor enforces restrictions on trans-fats and salt. Now he seems intent on adding a puddycat to that list.

The Citadel Military College and the Latest Allegations

Not this Charleston

It was spring and I was attending a symposium in Charleston, South Carolina.

Late in the afternoon, a recently-retired Army Colonel leaned across the table and asked me: Ensign, are you going to PT this afternoon? 

Yes, Sir. I was planning on heading to the gym.

Let’s go on a run.

Yes, Sir.

Not this one either

I met him later in front of his hotel. Those were the days before I fell victim to this monster called blogging and I was still putting in a fair amount of mileage.

He was in shape, after retiring out of West Point as a professor. And we pushed it out along the lower inlet of the Charleston Bay as close to the water as the sidewalk, and then the trail, would let us. Our goal: the Citadel.

The Colonel chatted on about the Army. His duty stations. I was not sure he was ready to admit he was retired. I always looked at the Army as for folks who liked to camp. And I was not much of a camper. But I listened carefully.

We ran through some park just south of the Citadel and the wind was cold, knifing off the water. It caught my breath just right and in breathing out, I suddenly felt blood trickling out my nose. It was a nasty feeling, this. Oddly, blood drips real quick and heavy. Faster than mucus. Ask anyone who gets nosebleeds. They, we know the second it starts to dribble.

The Citadel Military College

I tried to act normal, but the Colonel noticed. The Citadel was looming and we were running in the side gate to campus. My sweatshirt was streaked angry with blood. The guard gave us a strange look. I don’t think he stood there to restrict access, just as a guide to direct people.

By this time, my hands were red and my face looked like I lost a fight to a blind guy with a baseball bat. With good hearing. And a grudge.

We had better turn back, the Colonel said, hardly ten feet inside the gate. We spun around and hoofed it back to town. I apologized to the man and he waved it off. The next day, I did a quick drive around the Citadel.

I had known a couple of Citadel naval officers and I wanted to see their stomping grounds. Also, The Lords of Discipline had instilled in me a morbid curiosity of where Pat Conroy had come up.

The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy

Have you heard of the latest allegation concerning sexual molestations, this time against a man affiliated with the Citadel, a counselor at the military school’s camp?

After the issues at Penn State, Happy Valley, and Joe Paterno’s staff, I hoped the Citadel would not be as deep. The facts:

In the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, another university, The Citadel military college in South Carolina, revealed on Saturday that it had investigated accusations against a camp counselor but took no action.

The man has since been jailed on separate charges of molesting five boys in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston, South Carolina.

“We regret that we did not pursue this matter further,” Citadel President Lt. General John Rosa and Board of Visitors Chair Doug Snyder said in a statement.

Penn State, not Happy Valley

The solution to this issue is to be proactive. Vow to be the truth-teller. We can’t allow this to happen in our communities and schools. Personally, I commit always be a whistle-blower no matter how unfavorable to my career or place in society. Even if I get death threats:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Nov. 10 (UPI) — Penn State officials said Thursday assistant football Coach Mike McQueary would not attend Saturday’s game against Nebraska because of death threats.

McQueary has told a grand jury that as a 28-year-old graduate assistant coach in 2002 he witnessed former assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower at the school.

That revelation was the first step leading to Sandusky being indicted on 40 counts of sexual crimes.

Coach Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday in the wake of that scandal, as was school president Graham Spanier.

I love college football and have most of my life. And I worry that we have lost sight of our most important asset, our children. And they were sacrificed in the name of continued victory on the football field.

I heard on the radio that Joe Paterno had earned Penn State upwards of a billion dollars in his tenure at the university. Yes, he has coached for 44+ years (62 years on staff) and has 409 victories over his career. Which is amazing. But this is a black mark against him and his staff. Are those wins worth the pain inflicted on the abused children? I like Joe Pa and appreciate that he said this:

Joe Paterno, Penn State Head Coach, Fired

“The kids who were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them.

It’s a tough life when people do certain things to you.”

Should the NCAA shut down the Penn State program for a year? I don’t know. What I do know: this will not happen on my watch. . .