Monday, May 30, 2005

Houston, We Have a Problem: Exploring the Impact of Nuclear Terrorism (Part 1)

Old school crisis planning. We keep these
around as a reminder of the bad old days
when our cities were under constant nuclear
threat. How ready are we today?

Recently, the Washington Post ran an article stating that the US was unprepared for nuclear terrorism:

"The United States is, at the moment, not well prepared to manage an [emergency] evacuation of this sort in the relevant time frame," said Richard Falkenrath, former deputy homeland security adviser and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "The federal government currently lacks the ability to [rapidly] generate and broadcast specific, geographically tailored evacuation instructions" across the country, he said.

Right on, Mr. Falkenrath. But, you don’t know the half of it, and I’m guessing that 100-pound brains at the Brookings Institution don’t either. Welcome to my world.

Nature’s Nuke—Tropical Storm Allison hits the beach.

What Hurricanes Tell About Evacuating Cities:

In the summer of 2001, Tropical Storm Tropical Storm Allison came ashore in the Houston region and dropped 37 inches of rain killing twenty-two people and racking up $5 billion in damages. 70,000 homes, including my in-laws, were flooded and thousands of people were displaced. The downtown medical complex was devastated causing the emergency evacuation of hundreds of critical care patients. Four years later the recovery effort is still ongoing.

Back then, I was working for the Texas Division of Emergency Management in the State Operations Center, a cold war relic bunker 40 feet underneath the Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin. From there representatives for multiple state and federal agencies watched the storm come ashore, and then all hell broke loose.

I was manning a desk in the current operations cell when I got a phone call from a long distance call switch in Houston. I could literally hear the water flowing into the center as the guy on the other end begged for help. The auxiliary power unit on his generators had failed, and without them he couldn’t get his sump pumps started. He said that we had about a half hour before all long-distance service in and out of Houston would be disrupted. I scrambled to coordinate a response, but there was nothing we could do. Too many roads were closed and there was too much chaos to get him the size generator that he needed in time.

Minutes ticked by, and then, as if one cue, everyone’s phones went dead. All the blinking lights on our call routers were dim, and the operations center was suddenly silent. Our multi-million dollar communications system was now useless, and the fourth largest city in the US was now a communications black hole.

Luckily, we had enough satellite phones and volunteer ham radio operators to coordinate the most critical response activities. We sent a team into the Medical Complex, and they turned the Rice University stadium in a heliport. Hundreds of critical care patients, including the neo-natal intensive care unit, were evacuated by air to hospitals throughout the State. Gradually, the city clawed its way back into a functional state. But, in those hours where the power was off and the phones were down, most of the Houston, Harris County, and a good bit of Southeast Texas were on their own. There are hundreds of stories of dramatic rescues, personal courage, and great tragedy.

The State and Federal Government mounted a massive response. I deployed to FEMA’s disaster field office and stayed for a month. It took us weeks to completely get a handle on all the damage and to get everyone the help that they needed. The volunteer community alone prepared and distributed over a million meals to people impacted by the floods.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane is still relevant history in Texas, so every year before the beginning of hurricane season, we dust of our hurricane plans. The doomsday scenario is a Category Five hurricane landing a direct hit on Houston—Allison’s steroid filled big brother on a rampage. Here in Austin/Travis County we plan on receiving massive amounts of evacuees from the coast in the event of the “big one”.

So what does this have to do with nuclear terrorism and the Post’s article? Allison’s devastation illustrates what happens to cities in a disaster. We had years to plan and warning that the storm was coming. You have time to warn the population and tell them exactly what to. And yet things still go wrong. People still die.

In a nuclear terrorism event, there won’t be any warning days in advance. There won’t be any phone calls from frantic telecom employees trying to save the long distance service. One minute the city is there and the next it isn’t. And in those minutes and hours of chaos following the blast it will be almost impossible for the government to assert any kind of control over how the population behaves. So when I read things like this in the Post: made no mention of the critical factor of wind. But Rand advised that if wind is carrying smoke and the mushroom cloud toward people, they should immediately head perpendicular to it, on foot, for at least a few miles, to get out of the plume's path. Driving would be futile because of impassable roads, Rand said.
"Guidance from fails to indicate the time urgency involved," said Lynn E. Davis, a former undersecretary of state for arms control who was the Rand study's lead author. "We must act in a matter of minutes to survive."

Homeland Security officials said that some of the criticisms of are valid, and that they might change its wording in some places. But they said several experts they consulted believe miles-high winds could carry radiation in a different direction from wind on the ground.

I’m not sure if any of these folks has much actual experience with this type of stuff. There are so many variable involved that you can’t anticipate or plan for. Chaos will reign in the minutes and hours following a nuclear blast. If a Category Five Hurricane is Allison’s older brother, then nuclear terrorism is a platoon of Sept 11th’s. And no amount info on is going to be able to change the bad stuff that will happen following a nuclear blast.

Coming Soon: Part 2
What happens in the minutes and hours after the blast? What will be the challenges of evacuating a city that's just been hit by a nuke? Stayed tuned for more damage to the fair city of Houston, and some death by powerpoint, Alexander style.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Light Weekend Reading

U.N. Forces Using Tougher Tactics to Secure Peace
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 - The United Nations, burdened by its inability to stave off the mass killings in Rwanda in 1994 and by failed missions in Bosnia and Somalia, is allowing its peacekeepers to mount some of the most aggressive operations in its history.

The change has been evolving over the last decade, as the Security Council has adopted the notion of "robust peacekeeping" and rejected the idea that the mere presence of blue-helmeted soldiers on the ground helps quell combat.

Comment: Hope about some robust peace enforcement in Darfur...

What is Torture?
An interactive primer on American interrogation.

Comment: This is an excellent, well researched product from fellow mil blogger Phillip Carter. Worth a look.

War a Classroom for Veterans
The professor asked them all to give an impromptu speech on a life experience, and Daniel Wise listened, in agony, as five of his George Washington University classmates stood up one by one. The last one giggled through a speech about her summer job scooping ice cream. When it was his turn, he threw his shoulders back, stared straight ahead and, in his best hardened-soldier monotone, told them about fighting in Iraq for the U.S. Army.

Comment: I wonder if one of the great divides in our generation will be the GWOT. What's funny is that in the 60's, the bommers participated. They fought in Vietnam or they protested. My dad tells me that most kids didn't spend everyday of their lives worrying about it, but it mattered to them. They knew people who were in the war. The movements and changes were important, and they participated in far greater numbers than kids do today.

What does my generation have? What are we doing at home that's important? The margins on both sides are active, but the vast majority in the middle seems to be more concerned with Britney Spear's baby that the war. Which one will have the the most long lasting global consequences? Unless, Britney gives birth to anti-christ (which I'm not ruling out), then we'd better collectively pull out heads out of our asses and get to work.

Afghans left out of their own rebuilding
SAROWBI, AFGHANISTAN – Along a construction detour for the new highway between Kabul and Jalalabad, four unemployed Afghans stare out as trucks struggle up a dusty hill. The men are angry that the two Chinese firms in charge of the paving project haven't employed them or many of their compatriots.

"The Chinese are not hiring, and there are other organizations building schools, and they do not hire us, either," says one, Gula Jan.

Comment: Er, "the Chinese are not hiring". What wrong with that picture?

Mil blogs in the news
Imagine some of the soldiers who survived the Battle of Gettysburg stopping the next day to write their dramatic tales — and people around the world instantly reading them. If that battle had been fought today, no imagination would be necessary.

Comment: Good job guys and gals.

WWJD? Not this, I'm guessing.

N.C. pastor stands by sign saying Koran should be flushed
(FOREST CITY) - A Baptist minister in Forest City refuses to apologize for a church sign saying the Muslim Koran should be flushed.

The Reverend Creighton Lovelace of Danieltown Baptist Church says he believes it's a statement that the Bible is above any other religious book "that does not teach Christ as savior and lord."

He says he knew some people would disagree with the sign but his church needs to stand up for what's right.

Comment: I'm no biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure that Jesus wasn't an asshole. I'll die defending Mr. Lovelace's right to free speech, but I'm getting tired of cleaning up the messes that the intolerant dickheads of the world--on both sides-- leave behind. I wish that he'd realize that his actions actually make it harder for our troops to win.

Something Bigger Than Ourselves: Bobby's Thoughts on Life, Wealth, and Service
There are times when I realize just how out of touch I really am with my generation. I usually realize it when I'm surfing through the television channels-- for example, I am stunned that "Charmed" is broadcast anywhere, let alone on prime time. I have seen soap operas with better writing and better plots. (I know, I know, any show with Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Holly Marie Combs is going to stay on the air... but if that's all that's going to do it, why not scrap the whole theme and just have them do some kind of Cheerleader Nurse Academy?) Or while I acknowledge that the antics of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are amusing, I just don't see the point of watching their ridiculous behavior on television-- it's, like, what's the point...? That's hot.

Comment: Bobby nails it.

Just For Fun:

Terrorists might...
Make you laugh your ass off.

An American Barbecue Pilgrimage
I am obsessed with barbecue, America's greatest contribution to global cuisine. Before I go any further, I should make a point that will be obvious to many: What most Americans call barbecuing is not barbecuing. When you throw some charcoal on the Weber and sear some T-bones and burgers, you are "having a barbecue" but you are not "barbecuing." You are "grilling." When you grill, you cook fast over high, direct heat. But when you barbecue, you cook meat slowly, over low heat (as low as 170 degrees), and with smoke. Grilling is a transatlantic flight on the Concorde. Barbecuing is a cruise on the QE2. Grilling is a quickie on the kitchen table. Barbecue is tantric.

Comment: Homeboy travels all over the country looking for good eats. Travels through Houston but skips Goode Company BBQ, moves on to Austin but doesn't go to the Salt Lick, and then goes to Cooper's in Llano and doesn't get the pork chop. That's dumber than a bag of hammers. But, its still a good series. And I can confirm, after being stationed at Fort Campbell for four years, that Tennessee BBQ sucks.

Flashback Friday: Remember all the controversy over Americans With Disability Act way back in the '90s? It was going to destroy small businesses... blah, blah, blah. Well, the small businesses are still here, and as a new dad, I find all those handicaped ramps make it easy to tote Zane around in a stroller. Funny how being decent to people has its side benifits.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Analysis: Better Spies, Better Intelligence (Updated)

**See below for update**

The Center for American Progress is a liberal (or progressive, or democrat, or whatever the hell else we’re calling ourselves these days) think tank devoted to:

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure our national policies reflect these values. Our policy and communications efforts are organized around four major objectives:

  • Developing a long term vision of a progressive America
  • Providing a forum to generate new progressive ideas and policy proposals
  • Responding effectively and rapidly to conservative proposals and rhetoric with a thoughtful critique and clear alternatives
  • Communicating progressive messages to the American public.

Currently, they are producing a series call Progressive Priorities that outlines new policy ideas. One of the more interesting ones is called Better Spies, Better Intelligence: A Progressive Strategy for Creating a Professional Intelligence Corps. Regardless of your politics, it’s a good read and there are some noteworthy ideas explored in the paper.

The overall theme of the study is investing in the “human capital” of the intelligence community. Every year, we spend billions on our spy agencies, and our “systems” our second to none. But, that didn’t prevent Sept 11th or the WMD snafu in Iraq. Systems are worthless without the right people to do the analysis. The Center for American progress thinks that we can do better.

Overview Slide (Because a day without powerpoint is
like a day without sunshine)

Here are some areas that I thought were worth exploring:

FBI Culture and Hiring

The obstacles to change at the FBI have been and remain significant. At the time of the attacks, the FBI had critical personnel shortages in nearly every area: agents with counterterrorism experience made up less than 15 percent of its total agent workforce; it lacked any meaningful strategic analytical capability; and it had fewer that 100 specialists in the priority languages of Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, and Urdu. The FBI also remains imbued with a on the Virtual Case File System alone, much of which now appears to have been rendered worthless.The seriousness of the problem raises this issue to the level of presidential action. The FBI also remains imbued with a law-enforcement-first culture that is at odds with the skills and duties central to perform its intelligence function. In interviews withanalysts who were discouraged by the pace of reform, the 9/11 Commission staff found that many analysts were still being significantly underutilized.


Although the September 11 attacks provoked a call to service in the country that produced an unprecedented surge in applications to the federal government, real challenges remain in transforming this into more effective Intelligence Community staffing. The FBI received more than 40,000 applications for its special agent vacancies, and 57,000 from aspiring analysts between February and September 2004. According to testimony to Congress by then-Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, the CIA has experienced a similar surge in applications—totaling between 3,000 and 6,000 per week. A larger applicant pool, however, has not yet led to the Intelligence Community having personnel with the appropriate skills in sufficient numbers.

The FBI’s special agent hiring practices, for example, remain stuck in the past. The qualities the FBI traditionally seeks in special agents—law enforcement experience, legal or accounting backgrounds, and/or military service—are poorly matched to its new mission. Although Director Mueller has asserted that the Bureau is now recruiting with an eye toward intelligence experience—including language specialists, regional experts, computer scientists, and life scientists—FBI special agents still must be hired in one of five entry programs, none of which is intelligence. The Applicant Information Booklet for special agents available on the FBI website was last revised in 1997.


The FBI’s analyst and linguist recruitment efforts do not encourage the conclusion that the Bureau has turned the corner towards truly transforming its personnel. The GAO recently reported that through June 2004, the FBI had added only a net of 197 analysts since September 11, 2001, approximately 20 percent of its analyst workforce.

Help Wanted. These guys are hiring.
Why isn't the FBI?

Analysis: This assessment certainly mirrors my own experience with the FBI. When I got demobilized in late 2003, I was looking for a change of pace. My year at CENTCOM has been one of the most intellectually stimulating and challenging of my life, and I wanted to do something like that full time. When I heard that the FBI was hiring lots of new analysts, I was excited. A year of trying to navigate the FBI’s hiring process beat that enthusiasm out of me. (And this blog post will probably finally kill any chance of me getting hired)

The FBI’s hiring process is one of the most convoluted, bureaucratically inept things that I’ve ever seen. Some quick googling shows that I’m not alone in this assessment. I’m not the smartest kid on the block, but I think that I’d be the type of person that the FBI would want. Military Intelligence Background? Check. Real-world intelligence experience in a joint coalition environment? Check. Security clearance? Check. Homeland Security/Emergency Management background? Check. Extensive experience working with all levels of government--state, local, and federal? Check.

Hired by the FBI? Nope. What’s funny is that I can get a job for about any contractor that I want. When I post my resume on monster with my background the Titans, CACIs, and SAICs of the world come calling. But, back in D.C., there is just one little old lady in tennis shoes to sort through all the applications, and clearly she’s overwhelmed. Plus, this is what you get when you go to check for FBI vacancies:

The FBI Intelligence Program continually assesses mission requirements and priorities. This in turn results in program changes. As a result of the most recent program changes, the Intelligence Analyst vacancy announcements from last year that were open from 8/22/2004 through 9/27/2004 have been canceled. No selections will be made from these announcements.

FBI recruitment for Intelligence Analysts reflects these program changes in terms of focus and potential recruitment incentives. The FBI has a new announcement currently open that targets critical skills such as country or language expertise and other similar qualifications. Recruitment bonus offers tie to demonstrated possession of these skills.

We regret any inconvenience caused by the decision to cancel our earlier announcements. Applicants who previously applied to the Intelligence Analyst announcements that opened 8/22/2004 are encouraged to re-apply to the new announcement. New applicants are also welcome.

Read that closely. We’ve just canceled all the applications from ten months ago. What have we been doing for the last year? I have a couple in that pile so I guess its back to the drawing board. The bad guys are hiring, but we’re canceling applications. Yikes.

Language Training and Education:

The inadequate language skills within the Intelligence Community are particularly troubling because internal analysis from before the September 11 attacks indicated that it lacked depth in this key area. Yet no concerted effort has been made to significantly increase the pool of potential linguists. This failure is reflected in figures from the National Center for Education Statistics that show the United States graduated only 14 students with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degrees in Arabic in 2002, the last year figures are available, representing 0.08 percent of the total degrees obtained in foreign languages that year.


Make Education a National Security Imperative
The Hart-Rudman Commission reported in February 2001 that “the capacity of America’s educational system to create a 21st century workforce second to none in the world is a national security issue of the first order. As things stand, this country is forfeiting that capacity.” As we noted earlier, the American education system has not produced sufficient numbers of language or area specialists. The Hart-Rudman Commission highlighted critical shortages in teachers as well. These problems are cumulative, as current shortages spawn more acute shortages in the future.

The David L. Boren National Security Education Act of 1991 created the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which provides scholarships and fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students to study languages, areas studies, and other national security related fields. The Act also provides grants to universities to improve the provision of education in these areas where deficiencies exist. The NSEP is funded by the National Security Education Trust Fund. An $8,000,000 appropriation was authorized for the Trust Fund in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 established the Intelligence Community Scholarship Program. As a return for each year of assistance, students would commit to a two-year term of service as an employee of an agency in the Intelligence Community. This scholarship program will be under the control of Director of National Intelligence, and while the NSEP is designed to service the broad category of national security, this program is specifically designed to feed agencies in the Intelligence Community.

Analysis: I’ve commented on this before. Clearly, as a nation we have to do better. As the world learns English, there does not appear to be much of a “market” drive for language skills. You can make money by just speaking (barely in my case) English. But, our intelligence community, military, and diplomatic agencies need to these cultural skills to be effective. Where are the posters of Uncle Sam saying “I WANT YOU…TO LEARN ARABIC”?

Plus who ever heard of these scholarships? Who are we recruiting for this stuff?

Create an Intelligence Community Reserve Service (ICRS)

An effective Intelligence Community is one that can surge to meet the demands of a crisis or imminent threat while maintaining its ability to examine the horizon for emerging challenges. Creating the necessary surge capacity requires the formation of a meaningful Intelligence Community Reserve Service.

Although the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 authorized a National Intelligence Reserve Corps, its implementation is entirely at the discretion of the Director of National Intelligence. The president should instruct the DNI to work with Congress to establish a robust Intelligence Community Reserve Service. Such a service would enable the Community to retain a capability in critical areas when employees retire or resign. Furthermore, it would provide a dedicated reserve similar to the military’s where individuals are recruited and trained specifically for the reserve force.

This dedicated reserve component could be fed by a program similar to the military’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), in which potential reservists receive stipends in exchange for periods of training and active duty. Reservists would be required to maintain security clearances and receive regular training to ensure that their skills are current. A reserve corps would also enable the Intelligence Community to draw on the expertise of people outside of government service.

Analysis: This is the most intriguing and perhaps least workable proposal. Effectively, we have an ICRS. They’re called contractors. CACI, SAIC, Titan, DynCorp, and everybody else have their fingers in the pie. However, I’m not sure if this is always the best use of our money. (oops there goes more hiring opportunities)

One of the things that I’ve noticed in the reserves is that how many reserve intelligence soldiers are contractors. This year, I’ve had several of my guys get sent to Iraq not as soldiers, but as civilians. So, I’m stuck with soldiers on my roster who aren’t available, and the competing requirements aren’t always well-balanced.

There will probably always be a place for contractors in modern war, but the creation of a ICRS would build in additional surge capacity like we have with our military reserves. It would also allow us to tap into unexploited resources within our society. There are plenty of folks out there who have viable skills, but for whom there is not a full-time need. Many people have no interest in being a full-time spook or soldier, but would be willing to help out their countries in a crisis. Academia is a great place to look for brain-power.

Not every intelligence mission requires somebody to carry an M-4 or be a graduate of the “farm”. Document Exploitation is a great example of an intel discipline where an academic might excel. Essentially a clearance and some specialized training is all that separates reserve intelligence soldiers from regular citizens. A clearance, training, and highly specialized knowledge that takes years to develop might just make the idea of a ICRS worth exploring. Hell, I'd join...unless the FBI was managing the hiring process.

Training for Intelligence Consumers

The government invests significant resources to determine whether an official can be trusted to receive classified intelligence information, yet it devotes almost no energy to ensure that the official has the skills necessary to interpret that information properly. The NSC should oversee a program that requires all intelligence consumers to undergo training on how to interpret and evaluate material received from the Intelligence Community. For example, new employees in the Executive Office of the President should meet a series of requirements when first taking their positions. Training in the proper use of intelligence should be one of those requirements.

Analysis: “Blame the S-2,” is a common refrain in the Army. Its always “bad intelligence” but never bad decision making that leads to failure. I’ve found that the best military commanders are the savviest consumers of intelligence.

My boss on the CJTF-180 LNO team at CENTCOM was a ruff and tuff, Airborne-all-the-way field artillery officer. But, he understood intel. Hell, he loved it and knew just as much about it as I did. Later he was assigned to be a Brigade Fire Support Officer in Iraq, and there is no doubt in my mind that he made great decisions because of his ability to consume intelligence information and understand what it can and can’t do for you.

Building a program that makes government officials and politicians better consumers of intel would be a step in the right direction. A good model is what the Texas Division of Emergency Management requires of its elected officials. If you are an elected official in Texas and your jurisdiction receives any kind of emergency management grant funding you must take this course:

Principles of Emergency Management (G230) * Hours: 16
Description: This course consists of four modules. The first module includes the concepts of emergency management and its integration of systems, basic definitions, identification of hazards and their analyses. The second module outlines the role of the local emergency manager. The third module addresses the coordination of various systems and agreements among various governments. In the fourth module, the participants demonstrate their abilities to work and apply the skills and information gained in the first three modules.

Target Audience: Elected officials, local and state emergency management personnel, senior staff of departments charged with emergency responsibilities, members of volunteer groups active in disasters.

No class, no money. Imagine if every new congressman had to take an “Intelligence 101” orientation before they could be sworn in.

Final Analysis: The ideas in this paper are worth exploring, and some of them are pretty damn good. Of course, labeling these ideas as “progressive” (read not Republican) is not good enough to change anyone’s vote.

In the Army you use the military decision making process when you are preparing for an operation. In this process you develop at least two seperate courses of action to compare and wargame before producing your final plan and operations order. If a potential course of action is to be included in the further mission analysis it must meet the criteria of being “suitable, feasible, acceptable, and distinguishable" from other courses of action.

All the ideas advanced in this paper meet the first three criteria. They are set of workable solutions to some tough problems. However, they are not truly “distinguishable” as a refection of any sort of “progressive” ideals. I believe that most intelligence and security problems are (or should be) politically neutral. Both sides agree we need a strong defense and smart spies. But, a conservative think tank could have come up with these ideas just as easily as a liberal one.

What it all boils down to is leadership. You show me a candidate who makes ideas like this a part of his platform, and then I’ll show you somebody who might get my vote-- Democrat or otherwise.

Update: Praktike over at Liberals Against Terrorism links links to this post with the headline "The FBI is a Joke". Having worked with/around the FBI, I respectfully disagree. The FBI is a world-class organization filled with some great, highly skilled people. The capability that they bring to the fight is second to none.

However, this doesn't mean that the FBI doesn't have some big faults. All large organizations do. Personally, I'll probably re-apply for an analyst position once they are posted again. (Although my chances are probably blown now...) I've been part of two world-class organizations--101st ABN (ASSLT) and CENTCOM--and there is nothing more satisfying than being on a team like that.

The FBI is better than its hiring practices would suggest. That's all I wanted to point out. But, thanks for the traffic Praktike. I hope all the newcomers are enjoying my stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Light Weekend Reading

In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.


Specialist Damien M. Corsetti, a tall, bearded interrogator sometimes called "Monster" -he had the nickname tattooed in Italian across his stomach, other soldiers said - was often chosen to intimidate new detainees. Specialist Corsetti, they said, would glower and yell at the arrivals as they stood chained to an overhead pole or lay face down on the floor of a holding room. (A military police K-9 unit often brought growling dogs to walk among the new prisoners for similar effect, documents show.)

"The other interrogators would use his reputation," said one interrogator, Specialist Eric H. Barclais. "They would tell the detainee, 'If you don't cooperate, we'll have to get Monster, and he won't be as nice.' " Another soldier told investigators that Sergeant Loring lightheartedly referred to Specialist Corsetti, then 23, as "the King of Torture."

A Saudi detainee who was interviewed by Army investigators last June at Guantánamo said Specialist Corsetti had pulled out his penis during an interrogation at Bagram, held it against the prisoner's face and threatened to rape him, excerpts from the man's statement show.

Comment: Read this article even if you don't want to. Heartbreaking if even half of its true. Where the hell was the leadership? I could barely stomach reading this. I did not join an Army that lets asshole E-4 with "Monster" tatooed on their chests run amok and beat people to death. We can do better.

The rush to fight missiles aimed at planes

You can be pretty sure that when those two lost pilots in a little Cessna wandered out of Pennsylvania and into highly restricted air space near the Capitol and the White House last week, it wasn't just F-16 fighter jets and Blackhawk helicopters that were prepared to end their journey. Government men in black likely were posted atop key buildings with shoulder-fired missiles as well.

Such weaponry has been part of the US arsenal for decades. But just as many "bad guys" as "good guys" may be armed with MANPADS (man-portable air defense systems) these days, and some experts say that it would be far too easy for one of them to attack an American airliner. As a result, diplomats and engineers are scrambling to reduce the threat.

Comment: If we spend billions to protect the fleet of US Commercial Aircraft, all the terrorists have to do if shoot one from another country. Down an Aero Mexico plane as it makes it approach to the Austin airports, and you will still suceed in damaging the airline industy. Then you've got the public screaming "what did we spend all that money on?"

The best defense against terrorism is a good offense--military, politically, diplomatically. How about we take a billion dollars and invest it in language training programs so we can produce better HUMINT.

The Best P.R.: Straight Talk


The fact that the White House spokesman Scott McClellan spent part of his briefing on Tuesday excoriating Newsweek - and telling its editors that they had a responsibility to "help repair the damage" to America's standing in the Arab-Muslim world - while not offering a single word of condemnation for those who went out and killed 16 people in Afghanistan in riots linked to a Newsweek report, pretty much explains why we're struggling to win the war of ideas in the Muslim world today. We are spending way too much time debating with ourselves, or playing defense, and way too little time actually looking Arab Muslims in the eye and telling them the truth as we see it.

Comment: Worth reading.

Lessons for Iraq From Gettysburg

By David Ignatius

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- The most famous battlefield of the American Civil War might seem an unlikely place to look for lessons about Iraq. But as historian James McPherson leads a group of Pentagon officials in a discussion of postwar reconstruction, some startling common themes emerge.

Comment: History is fun and useful.

A Report Card on Iraqi Troops

HILLA, Iraq, May 17 -- The Iraqi colonel had just finished telling Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, about the successful raids his brigade had carried out, the suspected insurgents captured and the weapons rounded up.

Then, on a screen at the far end of a narrow, cramped conference room where Casey was sitting, the colonel flashed a slide rating his brigade according to a system just devised by the U.S. military. The slide showed a nearly complete sea of red squares -- red for staffing levels, red for training, red for equipment and so on through several more categories.

Comment: Ah Jesus (or Allah whichever your prefer), now its death by powerpoint Iraqi style.

Mail-order Quran arrives with slurs

LOS ANGELES - A Muslim woman who said she ordered a Quran through only to find profanity and religious slurs written inside asked Wednesday for an apology and a full investigation by the online retailer.

Comment: Will Jeff Bezos get burned in efagy in a riot in Jalalabad?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Earth Friendly Terrorism

In Senate testimony yesterday, the FBI's John Lewis summarized the domestic terrorism threat:

John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents since 1990. The FBI has 150 pending investigations associated with animal rights or eco-terrorist activities, and ATF officials say they have opened 58 investigations in the past six years related to violence attributed to the ELF and ALF.

He also said that terrorism from right wing associated groups in on the decline. The Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence report has a pretty good roll up of that type of extremism. Their info shows that although hate is alive and well in our country, groups like the KKK have not committed many bold, damaging attacks lately. Compare this roll up of ELF activities, and those "bunny huggers", as the Brits like to call them, are certainly more effective.

I was working for the Division of Emergency Management when the hoof and mouth disease crisis was raging in England. There were reports that animal rights groups were going to try to bring the disease over here. We took the threat seriously, and ended up doing a bunch of contingency planning. The state even sent some folks over the the UK to see how they were dealing with the crisis.

If hoof and mouth had spread to Texas, accidentally or otherwise, the results would have been catastrophic for the economy. We never got any follow up as to whether anyone had actually tried to contaminate US beef, but the consequences would have been far-reaching if they had.

Homeland Security is about more than AQ and Islamic extremism. We face many threats, and only some of them can be mitigated. Better policy in the Middle East can help neutralize radical Islam. But, are we really prepared to stop eating beef to mitigate the ALF threat?

I guess its all good job security for Mrs. Alexander's number one son.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Flat World and GITMO (UPDATED) (UPDATED)

Riots in Afghanistan. (Associated Press)

2nd Update: So it seems that Newsweek really shit the bed on this one, and my brothers and sisters in the mil-blogosphere are all over it and rightfully so. However, in our rush to condemn Newsweek, let's not loose the bubble on the entire story. The fact remains that GITMO is an albatross around our country's neck. It pisses off our allies and enflames the Islamic World.

Of course, GITMO was the best of a bunch of bad solutions for the AQ/TB detainee problem. But, we're three years into this, and it seems that our current approach is creating more problems than it is solving.

Newsweek may have sparked the fire, but we created the tinderbox. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened, and if we want to win, we must mitigate this in the future.

How? More transparency on GITMO. Adherence to the spirit as well as the letter of the Geneva Convention. And a final resolution as to what we are going to do with the enemy combatants. Some of these guys are hard core assholes. Lock 'em up and throw away the key. But, let's get the ball rolling and make a determination. Let's do justice.

Until then, we can expect more of this.

Update: Newsweek apologizes for Quran story, says report that sparked deadly protests contained errors.

Oh great, so mistakes were made. So which is it? Bad things at GITMO or bad reporting? This makes it too easy to focus the story on the media and not have a discussion about what we are doing in GITMO--good or bad.

More from the CS Monitor. Excellent as always.

Original Post:

There are reports all over the media of some nasty riots in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The riot started as a protest organized by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition a religious parties and organizations. The protests were staged in response to alleged desecration on the Koran by US soldiers in GITMO. The web page of MMA affiliated Jamaat-e-Islami out of Pakistan has this to say about it:

KARACHI, May 10: Protest day will be observed on May 13 across the country under the aegis of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal to condemn the desecration of the Holy Quran, inhuman treatment with prisoners in Guantánamo Bay prison, and the publication of a derogatory cartoon in the Washington Times about Pakistan.

How does the environmentalist saying go? Think Global, Act Local. Welcome to Thomas Friedman's flat word.

This is apparently the catalyst of the protests:

"The demonstrations began Tuesday, when protesters burned an effigy of President Bush over a report in Newsweek magazine that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay placed Qurans on toilets to rattle suspects, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet."

I don't know too much about what goes on down in GITMO, and even if I did, obviously I wouldn't talk about it here. But, I can picture some clever MI soldier doing this.

Notice how I use the word clever. There are lots of clever kids in MI, and I can see how if you knew a little about Muslim culture, you'd know that this might be an effective tactic to rattle someone enough to get them to talk--a clever tactic but bad strategy. An educated versus a clever soldier can understand the difference.

Now, I'm not claiming that I'm clever, educated, or an expert on any kind of culture including my own. But, the benefit of hindsight tells me that we've provided ammunition for MMA's information operations campaign. This alliance is not on our side, and is looking for any misstep to exploit. A riot yielding four dead Afghanis is even better.

Military Doctrine defines the "area of influence" as "A geographical area wherein a commander is directly capable of influencing operations by maneuver or fire support systems normally under the commander's command or control."

I've had some discussions with "doctrine Nazis"over exactly what that term means. Young guys are not afraid to call the AOI a country, a region, or even the globe. Old guys stick with the defitnition in the context of the pre-Sept 11th world for which it was written.

As an Army, we are still wrapping our minds around our role in the flat world. I've had very little formal instruction on the my role in an Army with global influence. So I can understand using an interrogation tactic that seems smart at the time but turns out to be a bad idea. Of course, its not a bad idea if it yields some bad ass piece of intel. I'd flush a whole pile of books down the toilet if it brought me UBL's head on a pike. Apparently that hasn't been the case.

In the Army, we have to do a risk assessment and a safety briefing for everything. Are we doing risk assessments on interrogations tactics? We may or may not keep these guys in GITMO forever. Are we prepared to accept risk for our actions once they are released and word gets out?

Transformation is going to make us lighter, faster, and more global. It had better make us smarter and more culturally adept. Or we had better get issued riot control gear.

Note: There is an interesting article in this month's Atlantic that offers and interesting counter-point to all this:

"Six months before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison broke into public view, a small and fairly obscure private association of United States Marine Corps members posted on its Web site a document on how to get enemy POWs to talk.

The document described a situation very similar to the one the United States faces in the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan: a fanatical and implacable enemy, intense pressure to achieve quick results, a brutal war in which the old rules no longer seem to apply.

Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran, the report's author, noted that despite the complexities and difficulties of dealing with an enemy from such a hostile and alien culture, some American interrogators consistently managed to extract useful information from prisoners. The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them."

Follow this link link to the Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association that published the info quoted in the Article.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Light Weekend Reading

One of the reasons that I started blogging was because my friends and family were tired of getting emails from me about "interesting" articles that I had read. I figured it would be easier to link and add commentary on a blog than to spam everyone. With a blog, I get to spam the world.

But, there are still interesting articles out there. Some of them match the "theme" and tone of my blog and some don't. So I ripped off Armchair Generalist's idea for a "Casual" Friday". I'll call my section light weekend reading. Heavy linking with minimal commentary. Enjoy.

Note: My new blog Raising Zane is up, but I've still got some work to do. I'm going to migrate all the Zane stuff over there so I don't end up subjecting family to all my rants. More to follow.

Abu Ghraib Roll-up:

General Demoted, Cleared in Probe
President Bush approved yesterday an order demoting Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, the only general to be punished in connection with investigations into detainee abuse at U.S. military prisons.

No prosecution for Abu Ghraib colonel
WASHINGTON - The Army reprimanded and fined a colonel who was in charge of an intelligence unit at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq during the period of prisoner abuse, but the service chose not to press criminal charges, an official said Wednesday.

Prison abuse trial set to begin for another soldier
FORT HOOD - Since January, Spc. Sabrina Harman has sat through each of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse trials, watching quietly as fellow soldiers were punished for tormenting Iraqi detainees.

Now it's Harman's turn in the dock, with much of the same evidence available to be used against her.

Comment: Is this as fair as it should be?

Situations that I'm glad I'm not in:

11-ounce newborn struggles to survive
OKLAHOMA CITY - Her legs are no longer than an adult's pinkie and her feet are about the size of an adult's fingernails.

'Weighing 11 ounces, Kalea Lyn Allen was delivered three months premature Tuesday by Caesarean section after an ultrasound raised concerns, Dr. John Stanley said.

Comment: I'm a lucky, lucky man. Don't know if I'm tough enough for something like this.

Darfur Drawn: The Conflict in Darfur Through Children's Eyes
On mission along the border of Chad and Darfur, Human Rights Watch researchers gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while they spoke with the children's parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad.

Comment: Makes me want to thump somebody's skull. I preach a more touchy-feeling approach to the GWOT, but clearly the Janjaweed are assholes. If this situation doesn't illustrate to my fellow liberals that there is sometimes a need for raw military power, then nothing will.

Walking it like you talk it:

Colorado Politician Signs Up for Iraq Duty: State Treasurer to Leave Post to Help Shape Baghdad Government as a Marine
DENVER, May 6 -- As the elected treasurer of a state that faces looming budget deficits and a complex effort to revamp its tax laws, Mike Coffman has had a lot to think about right here in Colorado. But for many months now, Coffman says, he has been thinking about a different set of governmental problems -- those facing the emerging national and provincial governments in Iraq.

Comment: Hero.

Home from Iraq
We spent 10 months in Iraq, working on a story, understanding who the people are who are fighting, why they fight, what their fundamental beliefs are, when they started, what kinds of backgrounds they come from, what education, jobs they have. Were they former military, are they Iraqi or foreign? Are they part of al-Qaida? What we came up with is a story in itself, and one that Vanity Fair ran in July 2004 with my text and pictures. [My colleague Steve Connors] shot a documentary film that is still waiting to find a home. But the basic point for this discussion is that we both thought it was really journalistically important to understand who it was who was resisting the presence of the foreign troops. If you didn't understand that, how could you report what was clearly becoming an "ongoing conflict?" And if you were reading the news in America, or Europe, how could you understand the full context of what was unfolding if what motivates the "other side" of the conflict is not understood, or even discussed?

Comment: This is worth reading. It took guts to do this, although I don't agree with all the conclusions.

Homeland Security Update:

NY Times HAZMAT Article
A small stretch of northern New Jersey running between Newark Airport and Port Elizabeth has been called the most dangerous two miles in America by terrorism experts, and for good reason. It holds a chlorine plant that could threaten some 12 million people, and it has more than a dozen other chemical plants, two port complexes and a plethora of oil storage tanks, refineries and pipelines, intermingled with rail and highway links that provide easy access to more than 100 potential targets in all.

Comment: I'll post more on this topic later, but this issue is a hell of a lot more complicated than it looks. Trust me. BTW, the part about having the chemical industry use less dangerous chemicals is just plain dumb. You can't make chlorine less dangerous.


Kabul's must-see TV heats up culture war in Afghanistan
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN A bearded man from the bazaar is whisked into a barber shop, where he's given a shave and a slick haircut. After a facial, he visits fashion boutiques.
In a few tightly edited minutes of television, the humble bricklayer is transformed into an Afghan metrosexual, complete with jeans, sweater, suede jacket, and sunglasses.

CS Monitor AFG Blog

Comment: If you don't read The Christian Science Monitor, you are missing some excellent South Asia coverage.

Oh Great:

Volunteer patrols may be on Texas border by fall
After spending a month engaged in a citizen patrol along the Arizona border, the Minutemen are finalizing plans to come to Texas.

Chris Simcox, the leader of the controversial Arizona group that is attempting to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants from Mexico, says he is considering October for the beginning of patrols along the Rio Grande in South Texas. Other patrols are being considered for New Mexico and California.

Comment: I'm sorry, but this is just plain dumb. Somebody is going to get hurt.

Just For Fun:

Joe Bob Briggs Lives!
What ever happened to Monster Vision?

Dumbest fucking idea for a TV show. Ever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Iraq Weekly Status Report

I saw this this weekly report linked on Slate. Death by Powerpoint, State Department Style.

I worked on a lot of briefings like this at CENTCOM. Not the sexiest, macho stuff in the world, but somebody has to be the "Powerpoint Ranger".

This part is interesting:

"The Government of Iceland will allocate $1.5 million to a prosthetics project to be run by Ossur, Inc. in a hospital in Dahuk, northern Iraq. The project's aim is to provide up to 600 Iraqis with prosthetic feet, provide local Iraqi prosthetic specialists with the training and provide follow-up treatment for the Iraqi recipients. Preparations for the project have already started and it is estimated to last for the next 12-18 months."

Way to go Iceland!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Advice for Mobilizing Units and Commanders

Recently, DarthVOB sent out an email to mil-bloggers asking for advice on preparing his unit for mobilization and deployment to Iraq. My BN was mobilized in OCT01. Most of us ended up doing two years one way or another. We have deployed soldiers to GITMO, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Iraq.

During the initial phases on the mobilization I was our BN’s mobilization officer. The HHC company commander could not mobilize because his wife was sick so I took over the company on our first day of active duty—and kept the job as mob officer. Fun. Currently, I am commanding another company in our BN. I have been through several rounds of additional mobilizations, and I have soldiers in both AFG and Iraq.

I’m no expert. But this experience, combined with a recent stay at a Holiday Inn Express, makes me knowledgeable enough to fake it. So here’s my advice on getting through mobilization. I wish I could talk more about what to expect in Iraq, but Qatar is as far I got—this time.

So allow me to step up onto my soapbox.


Get ahead of the Admin stuff early. The first days and weeks of your mob are going to be chaos. I recommend bringing on a smart NCO or officer early in order to square away all your admin stuff prior to mob. You can be creative with AT or ADSW orders to get the money.

If you have time, I’d scan each of your soldier’s personnel records and put them on CDs. I’d also have your soldiers hang them in their personal AKO knowledge centers. You don’t want to be trying to promote some kid in Iraq when the documents you need to complete the packets are back home in a filing cabinet.

Promotions. You will be subject to the whims of a more or less broken promotion system once your get mob’d. Try to promote everyone who is worthy before mob.

Medical Readiness. Most people will want to be deployed. They won’t want to be left behind, but lots of reservists have medical issues. Once somebody is mob’d they are sucked up into an uncooperative system. I’d try to do a medical screening prior to mob to try to weed out those who aren’t medically ready. ID them early and don’t take them. A guy with a bad back who ends up in Iraq is going to be a pick burden to you. And you don’t want some guy stuck for a year at Fort Wherever being a medical hold.

Family Care Plans. Every single parent has to have one, and many of them suck. Don’t just rubber-stamp them. A shaky family care plan will collapse six months into mobilization. I had it happen to me with one of my soldiers. Two article-15s and a lot of heartburn later, I solved the problem. My old PSG used to say that sometimes you have to choke a motherfucker to get him listen. I choked a couple stripes off the kid, and he got the point. Be thorough with counseling your soldiers prior to signing off on the plan. If you don’t think its going work, pull in the people who are going to be taking care of the kids in question. If your gut tells you it’s fucked up, you’re probably right. Don’t sign until you’re sure.

Financial Readiness. One of my Warrant Officers owned a multi-million dollar business. Obviously he was one smart dude, but after he got called up his investors began getting shaky—patriotism at its finest. I had to de-mob him so he wouldn’t loose everything. In the process, he had to resign his commission.

One of my SGTs worked for Dell making +100K. Dell picked up the difference as long as he was obligated to be in the Army, but Dell HR had a copy of his enlistment paperwork. He ETS’d mid-way through, and Dell told him that his he re-upped, they would pull the plug on his money—more patriotism at its finest. The point is that you need to develop a simple financial tool that helps your soldiers assess the financial impact of getting mob’d. If someone is going to be put in a bind, you might was to not take them. You don’t want some guy worried about loosing his house in the middle of a war zone. A distracted soldier is a dangerous one.

Your Soldiers

Get to know your soldiers. Once our BN got called up, we sat at Fort Hood for months and months. Our orders didn’t allow us to bring POVs. We were quartered at North Fort Hood—at real garden spot—but most of the soldiers worked and trained on South or West Fort, thirty miles away.

So a couple weeks into this, our active-duty BDE commander (he’s retired now so I can spout off) declared that he would initially allow 20% of the BN to go home and retrieve their POVs. We were instructed to select the most “mature” soldiers to go home and get their cars. He wanted us to make sure that we were send people who could handle it. What a crock of shit. Gee we must be a bunch of ignorant slack-jawed civilian assholes to not be able to manage a trip to Austin or San Antonio. What’s funny is that our BN had five Vietnam vets, but I guess they didn’t meat the maturity test.

Obviously this pissed me off. So I gathered my company together and had them fill out these little biography sheets that detailed their civilian and military experience. Because of my no-notice assumption of command, I hadn’t had time to really get to know my company. Shit was I surprised at the talent that I had in my hands. Homicide and Narcotics detectives. A medical student (can you guess who did all my first-aide training?). A guy who had been NCOIC of the Fort Hood anti-gang task force. Engineers. A border patrol agent. Combat vets. A guy that had been on a plain clothes force protection team in Europe. A millionaire. College students. Store managers. Network engineers. A poet. Some guy who worked for the government, although he wasn’t that bright.

So, I carried around these sheets with me (along with a slight chip on my shoulder), and I whipped them out the next time I saw the BDE CDR. I told him that he didn’t need to worry about the maturity of MY company’s maturity. I guess he was impressed with my boldness because he never pulled that shit with my company or me again. And he gave me a top block. Go figure.

The point is that you’ve got some talent on your hand whether or not you know it. Make sure you know what you’ve got. You’ll be surprised and you’re soldiers will appreciate the effort. Plus, you’ll be ready if anyone ever brings up the “maturity” issue.


Be straight with families. Your soldier’s families may think they want to hear a rosy picture. Everything is cool and nothing bad is going to happen. Everything will be fine. Bullshit. Everything won’t be fine. Even if you’re lucky enough not have any casualties, things are not going to go perfect. This mob will result in divorces, financial problems, and a lot of heartache. Reunion can be a bitch even for the best marriages. Hell, my wife and I have a great marriage, but even we were at each others throats for a while when we got through the initial honeymoon of me being back home.

So far (KNOCK ON WOOD), we haven’t had anyone killed in my BN. But, we had some badly wounded, and even one kid prosecuted in the Abu Ghraib mess. Bad shit happens. And you, your soldiers, and their families need to be mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for it.

I would bring families in early and tell them the hard truth. Don’t do it right before you get on the bus to head towards your mob station. Do it a couple weeks early. Let it sink in. Tell the how things work when somebody gets hurt or killed. Tell them how this can impact their marriages. The truth may piss them off, but they’ll thank you in the long run.

ID Cards: Get depend ID card done early. Don’t wait and try to do it during home station activities. It’s a pain in the ass.


I won’t talk about force protection. You’ll get your fill of that. But, I will talk about two elements of training that are often overlooked.

Maintenance: train to maintain. Being the HHC commander was my cross to bear. There ought to be a secret society made up entirely of former HHC commanders who plot against the lucky assholes who have it easy in the line companies.

Nobody wants to do maintenance—especially reservists. Do you turn wrenches in your normal life? Hell no. I take my truck to jiffy-lube. But, as soldiers we have to take care of the things that take care of us. So make your guys get good at maintenance. This applies to all your equipment. Ask Jessica Lynch about good weapons maintenance.

Leadership skills. How many of us are actually “leaders” in our civilian careers? I don’t mean managers, but no shit leaders. Very few of us actually are. But, we expect our young NCOs and officers to take charge and kick ass even though they don’t have experience doing it.

If you have time, create training opportunities that build junior leaders. My personal favorite is the leadership reaction course. Its fun, and it give soldiers a chance to lead in challenging situations.


You are worthless to your troops if you don’t take care of yourself. Don’t get so caught up in being a leader that you don’t take the time to do all the right things for yourself and your families. I was a zombie by the end of the workday during our initial mob, and I I neglected my wife. Anyone from Texas knows that we grow our women strong, but she still got stuck with a lot of bullshit because I was overwhelmed.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox now. Take this advice for what its worth. I’d really love it if my fellow mil-bloggers or anyone else who has experience would weigh in on this. How about some advice for once he gets boots on the ground.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Knowing When to Say When

One of the hardest decisions that I ever made was to get off active duty. You loose a big part of your identity and self-image when you go from ass-kicking member of the 101st to being a PFC--private fucking civilian. I felt withdrawal pains from the Army for a long time and wondered if I had made the right decision. The reserves has mitigated some of those feelings, but I still wonder if I'd be happier back on active duty. Probably not, but you wonder sometimes.

So yesterday when I had a conversation with one of my young officers who has told me that he wants to resign his commission, I started thinking how hard my own decision had been. My officer is a brand new 2LT, and OCS grad. He was enlisted in the Navy, and is a pretty sharp kid. I like him, and I think he's got potential.

He's in a fairly demanding job in the public service field, and he's a new father. He shows up to drill exhausted, and the only weekends he gets off from his job are taken up by military duty. He never gets a weekend off, and his wife is not very thrilled about it. One demanding career is tough enough on families, but two can strain even the best marriages. On top of that he has elder parents and family to take care of. He's got a lot on his plate, and it shows. He's weary and worn out in his twenties.

We talked for a long time about whether or not he needed to stay in. It was a hard conversation. I don't think this guy has every quit anything in his life, and I could hear it in his voice. Technically he still owes time to the military from his enlisted stint in Navy, but that could have been straight IRR time. Instead, he choose to go to OCS, but its not working out for him.

So I had to make a decision. What did I tell him? I could have used my Jedi mind tricks and convinced him to stay. At a certain point in your career you get good at those "son you need to suck it up for god and country" speeches. But, I didn't give him one. I weighed what was best for him and what was best for the Army.

I told him that I thought he was making the right choice by getting out. He told me that he felt like a dirtbag for doing it, that he was shirking his commitments. I told him that he would be a dirtbag if he didn't feel that way. I've met plenty of officers who didn't take their commitment seriously, and it showed in their units.

Why did I tell this kid he was doing the right thing? I think being an officer in a tremendous commitment, and if you're heart is not in it, then you should leave. This is especially true in the reserves. I spend several hours a week doing Army stuff. It adds up. I'd rather not spend my evenings locked away in the study knocking out training schedules and evaluations, but I do it because I am committed. I also have a tolerant wife.

But, if my heart wasn't in it, I would leave. That's what I told my young officer. I told him that he would end up being a bad officer if he didn't want to be there. I also told him that a distracted officer was a dangerous one. This guy doesn't need to be sent to war if his head is not in the game.

I'm not sure if I did the right thing or not. Hell, I'm not even sure if I should be blogging this or not. But, I want to share some of what being an officer and commander is all about.

Some might argue that I'm being soft. The guy made a commitment, and he should stick to it. I might agree if he was a private. But, officers are different. There is too much unacceptable risk in forcing someone to stay in a leadership position who doesn't belong in it. Would I want this kid leading my soldiers in war?

I told him that I would support whatever decision he made, and he dropped his resignation paperwork today. Now the fun begins. The Army Reserves is going to make this kid jump through all kinds of hoops to get out. This statement will probably get me in trouble, but I wonder if its less about commitment and more about numbers? If me and my BN commander agree that he should be in the Army, shouldn't it be good enough? Nope. We're going to have to put together this huge packet to prove that he shouldn't be here. Maybe that's for the better.

The hell of it is that he could just quit showing up to drill, and he probably get out of the Army faster. He'd probably get an honorable discharge.

Oh well, I'm tired and probably whining. This is going to be one of those things that makes your earn your money as a commander. But, I'm committed to stay in the fight.