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Posts tagged “Politics

After Years at War, the Army Adapts to Garrison Life

By JAN. 18, 2014

Inside

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Army’s New Rhythm

Army’s New Rhythm

Travis Dove for The New York Times

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Spec. Perez Brown Jr. spent three years in the Army and two tours in Afghanistan, where on his 23rd birthday a homemade bomb blew up a vehicle in his convoy and he came close to driving over another one just down the road. “That second one might have been for me,” he said.

Now Specialist Brown is safely home with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, where he goes on field marches in the frosty forests near Lake Ontario. He will not be sent again to Afghanistan, where American involvement is winding down, so he is part of an Army that is no longer carrying out war plans, only training for them.

Although he is glad to be back, Specialist Brown misses the intensity and purpose that deployments brought to his life. Here in upstate New York, he said, it is peaceful but a little boring. “There are too many slow days,” he said.

A dozen years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most of the two million American men and women who went to war are home, adjusting to new lives. Slightly more than half remain in the armed services, where many are struggling — like America’s ground forces over all — to find relevance in the face of an uncertain future.

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“You can compare it to a football player who trains for years and doesn’t want to sit on the bench for the Super Bowl.” LT. ANDREW MAYVILLE, back home at Fort Drum, N.Y., but applying to the Special Forces Brett Carlsen for The New York Times

Their restlessness is a particular challenge for the Army, which sent 1.3 million troops to war after 9/11 and created the most combat-tested force in the nation’s history. But now it must sustain the morale of soldiers who have returned to American bases and are living what the military calls garrison life.

“You have to ask yourself if you want to be that leader who is relegated to navigating garrison bureaucracy — submitting ammo requests, coordinating weapons ranges and conducting inventories,” said Capt. Brandon Archuleta, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returned to Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. “I know those processes are in place for a reason, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.”

Lt. Andrew Mayville, who commanded an artillery platoon of 20 soldiers in Afghanistan and is back home at Fort Drum, misses the urgency of his deployment and so is applying to the Special Forces, a branch of the Army that trains allied militaries overseas and is sent to hot spots. “You can compare it to a football player who trains for years,” he said, “and doesn’t want to sit on the bench for the Super Bowl.”

The problems soldiers face in adjusting to ordinary Army life after the adrenaline of combat weighs on commanders.

“It takes a bit of audacity to fall out of a perfectly good airplane in the dark of night,” said the 82d Airborne Division’s command sergeant major, LaMarquis Knowles, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. “So there are some challenges when we integrate back into civilization. You transition from one mind-set — you roll out of your cot and you seek and destroy the enemy — to coming back to the States, where we want you to drive safely.”

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, acknowledged that the Army and its soldiers were at “a very important inflection point.” The numbers tell part of the story: The Army is reducing to 490,000 troops from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000, and some at the Pentagon already are suggesting that budget cuts might force the Army down to as low as 420,000 in years to come.

But General Odierno, who served multiple command tours in Iraq, insisted that the Army would not be confined to garrison life. Instead, he said, his soldiers will be “globally responsive and regionally engaged” in overseas war games, exercises with foreign militaries and, if needed, deployments to hot spots. He also wants to restore a schedule of academic training, which was pushed aside by combat.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, is carrying out that mission with his soldiers. “We are not going to sit in our garrisons,” he said. “That’s not what the Army did before the wars. We trained here. We deployed for training all over the world. And we will find our way back to that.”

But the reality is indisputable. The 10th Mountain was the first division sent off to fight the war in Afghanistan, and now it will be the last. General Townsend is headed to eastern Afghanistan in a final deployment that will close the official NATO combat mission by the end of the year.

A More Experienced Field

Captain Archuleta, 30, is the face of today’s Army, the kind of young officer who had experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan far beyond his rank. President of his 2006 class at West Point, he deployed a year later as a platoon leader to Babil Province, south of Baghdad. One day, his battery commander approached him with an unusual offer.

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“There are too many slow days.” SPEC. PEREZ BROWN JR., home at Fort Drum after three years in the Army and two tours in Afghanistan Brett Carlsen for The New York Times

“He said, ‘I’m having trouble with the town council,’ ” Captain Archuleta recalled. “ ‘I know you are a wonky poli-sci kind of guy. I’m at a standstill. Can you contribute to this?’ ”

Captain Archuleta joined a team of military representatives to the town council of Al Haq, where he helped oversee public services — water, roads, electricity — assisted in reconciliation talks with tribal elders and worked as a payroll officer to Iraqi security forces.

“My battery commander and my battalion commander realized they had a big challenge with governance,” he said. “They knew they couldn’t be everywhere at once. It was quite empowering for them to delegate those authorities to me.”

Over two wars, experiences like Captain Archuleta’s were repeated up the chain of command.

Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan never had as many forces as called for under the military’s troop-heavy counterinsurgency strategy, so officers had to secure far larger expanses of territory than in past wars as a range of unexpected responsibilities, particularly governance and economic development, fell to them. Captains had responsibilities held by colonels a generation before, colonels shouldered the challenges of past generals, and generals had resources larger than many nations’ defense ministries.

But when Captain Archuleta returned home to Hunter Army Airfield in 2010, after he commanded a company of 110 soldiers in Afghanistan’s volatile Khost Province, he missed the responsibilities that his commanders had given him in war.

“My peers who felt similarly either pursued broadening assignments within the military, like me, or simply left active duty for business school and the private sector,” he said.

The Army, seeking to retain Captain Archuleta, selected him to join the West Point faculty to teach American politics. The Army is now paying for him to earn a master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Texas en route to a doctorate in government. Under his agreement with the Army, he will leave the West Point faculty and return to the fighting force in 2017.

“Such a positive option was not the experience of all of my contemporaries,” Captain Archuleta said.

Transition to Peacetime

That challenge of transitioning to a peacetime Army is felt in a different way across the enlisted ranks, as commanders say they typically face more challenges disciplining troops at home.

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Paratroopers rehearsed their landing falls at Fort Bragg. Travis Dove for The New York Times

“We all struggle with the fact that leadership in garrison is much tougher than leadership in combat,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Larry D. Farmer, who served as the senior noncommissioned officer for the 82nd Airborne’s Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg.

Young soldiers may have survived multiple combat tours and countless brushes with death, which commanders say can lead to a sense of invincibility and the need to seek out the rush of war from thrills like reckless driving and drug and alcohol abuse.

Although there is typically an initial honeymoon period when soldiers return to their families, the frictions of daily life start to spark by the six-month mark, and Army leaders know they have to pay special attention as problems may emerge.

Stepping up the training schedule can help. Last summer, in a military exercise, more than a thousand paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division floated down from the dark bowl of sky over Fort Bragg, visible through night-vision goggles as umbrella-shaped shadows against a pale green backdrop.

Their mission, the centerpiece of an eight-day war game for 7,500 troops, was to evacuate civilians endangered by a foreign political crisis and secure a chemical weapons depot in a chaotic, unnamed nation.

The 82nd Airborne, back home after years of nonstop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, continues to prepare for conflict, although not the full-scale land wars of the last 12 years. As Robert M. Gates said in 2011, when he was the defense secretary, “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”

Instead, commanders say the Army’s future lies in creating leaner, faster units that can provide disaster relief, secure embassies, seize airfields and deploy for other emergencies large and small — all while continuing to deter potential adversaries from aggressive actions.

“Our recent combat experience is not necessarily analogous to what we are going to have to do in the future,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne. The division has again been designated the military’s Global Response Force — ready to deploy a battalion of about 750 troops overseas within 18 hours, and a full brigade of about 3,500 troops in as little as two days.

To meet that renewed purpose, General Nicholson also put his paratroopers through a separate “no-notice alert” last year to rehearse going from a status quo daily schedule to a rapid combat deployment. More than 1,000 soldiers swapped out their distinctive maroon berets for camouflage helmets as they shrugged into parachutes and loaded their combat equipment onto transport aircraft as if for immediate dispatch to an overseas crisis.

These drills, General Nicholson said, reflect the most significant change for paratroopers here, one that will return the division to its historic rapid-reaction role. They also serve to keep impatient troops who experienced real combat in Iraq and Afghanistan occupied at home.

When it comes to money for training, his division is one of the fortunate ones. For almost a year, tight budgets have meant that only those units next in line for deployments have been allowed to conduct large-scale training exercises — the sort of event that focuses the energy of soldiers and boosts morale.

“What keeps me up at night,” General Odierno said, “is if I’m asked to deploy 20,000 soldiers somewhere, I’m not sure I can guarantee you that they’re trained to the level that I think they should be.”

As for Specialist Brown, he has decided that his future and the Army’s are intertwined. With hopes for advanced training in electrical engineering, and at least the prospect of another tour overseas — perhaps to Africa, Europe or Asia — he has re-enlisted for another three years.

“I haven’t decided whether I’ll stay in for the whole 20 years,” he said. “But I’m willing to take it a couple of years at a time.”

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Remind me in the morning.

Okay, I’ve had a few snorts of Johnny Walker Black Label and there are social, political, and economic idiocies that need commenting on.

For now, I am going to get some sleep and let the rants marinate. The blasting of politicians, political parties, stupid people, etc needs to happen soon. Plus, it has been a while since I unleashed on the good ol’ wordpress.

Good night, ladies and gents. There will be butthurt in the morning.

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Vets Deliver “Barry-cades” to the White House

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In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Party Reaches New High

Twenty-six percent believe Democratic and Republican parties do adequate job

by Jeffrey M. Jones
This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how the government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt ceiling are affecting Americans’ views of government, government leaders, political parties, the economy, and the country in general.

PRINCETON, NJ — Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.

Trend: Perceived Need for a Third Major U.S. Political Party

The results are consistent with Gallup’s finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans’ widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed.

The prior highs in perceived need for a third party came in August 2010, shortly before that year’s midterm elections, when Americans were dissatisfied with government and the Tea Party movement was emerging as a political force; and in 2007, when the newly elected Democratic congressional majority was clashing with then-President George W. Bush.

A majority of Americans have typically favored a third party in response to this question. Notably, support has dropped below the majority level in the last two presidential election years in which Gallup asked the question,2012 and 2008. Support for a third party was lowest in 2003, the first year Gallup asked the question. That year, 40% thought the U.S. needed a third party, while 56% believed the Republicans and Democrats were doing an adequate job.

Republicans, Democrats Equally Likely to See Need for Third Party

Republicans (52%) and Democrats (49%) are similar in their perceptions that a third party is needed. In fact, this marks the first time that a majority of either party’s supporters have said a third party is needed.

Trend: Support for a Third Major U.S. Political Party, by Political Party Affiliation

As would be expected, a majority of independents — those who profess no initial allegiance to either party — have always said the U.S. needs a third party. Seventy-one percent currently hold that view, which has been exceeded twice before, in 2007 and 2010.

Implications

Given the inability of the Republican and Democratic parties to agree on the most basic of government functions — passing an annual budget to pay for federal programs — it is perhaps not surprising that the percentage of Americans who believe a third party is needed has never been higher.

However, the desire for a third party is not sufficient to ensure there will be one. Structural factors in the U.S. election system and the parties’ own abilities to adapt to changing public preferences have helped the Republican and Democratic parties to remain the dominant parties in U.S. government for more than 150 years. Third parties that have emerged to challenge their dominance have not been able to sustain any degree of electoral success.

Survey MethodsResults for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 3-6, 2013, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup’s polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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Where’s sense of crisis in a 17% government shutdown?

BY BYRON YORK | OCTOBER 5, 2013 AT 1:01 PM

Everyone knows the phrase “government shutdown” doesn’t mean the entire U.S. government is shut down. So in a partial government shutdown, like the one underway at the moment, how much of the government is actually shut down, and how much is not?

One way to measure that is in how much money the government spends. In a conversation Thursday, a Republican member of Congress mentioned that the military pay act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama at the beginning of the shutdown, is actually a huge percentage of the government’s discretionary spending in any given year. And that is still flowing. So if you took that money, and added it to all the entitlement spending that is unaffected by a shutdown, plus all the areas of spending that are exempted from a shutdown, and added it all together, how much of the federal government’s total spending is still underway even though the government is technically shut down?

I asked a Republican source on the Senate Budget Committee for an estimate. This was the answer: “Based on estimates drawn from CBO and OMB data, 83 percent of government operations will continue. This figure assumes that the government pays amounts due on appropriations obligated before the shutdown ($512 billion), spends $225 billion on exempted military and civilian personnel, pays entitlement benefits for those found eligible before the shutdown (about $2 trillion), and pays interest costs when due ($237 billion). This is about 83 percent of projected 2014 spending of $3.6 trillion.”

So the government shutdown, at least as measured by money spent, is really a 17 percent government shutdown. Perhaps that is why the effects of the shutdown, beyond some of the most visible problems, like at the monuments and memorials on the Washington Mall, don’t seem to have the expected intensity. Seventeen percent of federal expenditures is still a huge amount of money, and the shutdown is affecting many people. But many more who are dependent on federal dollars are still receiving their money, either as salary, transfer payment, or in some other form. Viewed that way, it’s no wonder both Republicans and Democrats appear to believe they can last the shutdown out, at least for a couple of weeks until they try to resolve the debt limit crisis due to arrive October 17.

From The Washington Examiner


Reagan warned us about Obama


Let’s try a little math problem

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