Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Start Saving Me" - Mike Corrado

Mike Corrado "Start Saving Me" (acoustic)

This is a great song from Mike Corrado, a veteran of OIF. I encourage you to visit Mike's website, listen to some of his other tunes and watch some videos. You should also visit To The Fallen Records, a website devoted to musician veterans who have something to say, and they say it through their music.

BLUF*: I'm a Leader and I'm Embarrassed and Appalled.

I've been asked over and over, "But what do you think about this movie?," meaning 'Lioness'. "Don't you have an opinion?" Yes, most assuredly I have an opinion and thoughts on many things highlighted in the film. Leadership is the topic that immediately jumps out at me. I'll try and conceal my anger and frustration, but it's going to be difficult.

On Leadership: We, the leadership, failed these women on many levels, starting with the most basic principles of squad infantry tactics and mission preparation. Yes, I said infantry. At a Soldier's base, to include female Soldiers, we are all infantry Soldiers. Both males and females, all of us, get the same training in infantry tactics in our basic training. It is also reinforced in advance schooling and daily training. So in many ways these women were equipped with the knowledge necessary to participate and succeed. The reason many of the engagements they were involved in left them feeling confused, angry and sometimes alone in the street was due to a failure in leadership, not training. And it was inexcusable.

I can only speak for the Army, but there are a few things that are required before you embark on a mission. I assume the other branches of service have similar requirements. It's part of Army doctrine. It’s also pretty much common sense type stuff so I can't imagine how it was overlooked. It's called pre-execution checks and rehearsals. If adequate pre-execution checks and rehearsals had been performed, many of the near death and tragic mistakes that occurred could have been prevented.

It's the leader's responsibility to make sure that every person on his/her team knows the hand and arm signals that will be used, knows the route, understands how to use every weapon system that will be employed on the mission, knows how to operate the radio, knows the frequencies for the radios, understands where the rally points are, knows what to do in every possible scenario you could imagine, etc. You just can't assume that everyone knows all these things and run out guns a blazin’.

And simple common sense tells you that if you are going to marry up two different branches of service and ask them to perform a mission together, there better damn well be some communication and briefings on the "how tos, what fors and whys." Any leader worth his/her salt knows that these are important pieces of information and they can determine whether the mission is a success or failure, whether people live or die. Hell, privates know this, so how the leadership chain missed it I have no friggin' idea.

On Recognition: Again, the fact that these women weren't adequately recognized for their bravery, participation and contributions to the mission is inexcusable. I also attribute this to a failure in leadership. Oh... and the stupidity of the press for assuming that women weren't involved. It's called asymmetric warfare (Media, do us all a favor and read up on it.). There is no more "front line." We simply don't have the ability to isolate women from combat. It's also not practical given that women comprise a large percentage of the ranks. Like it or not, they're (we're) here to stay, and they deserve recognition for their contributions. As my father says, "Give credit where credit is due." And it is certainly due. Now overdue.

On follow-up and basic Soldier care after the mission: Again, a leadership failure. Thankfully Soldiers are now getting the help that they need, but it is way after the fact and now delinquent. Trees have been killed and electrons burned over this topic. If you have missed out on the news that virtually thousands of our men and women are returning from theater with PTSD, depression, substance abuse problems and other like illnesses, then you've been living under a rock. Wake up!

In short, I’m a leader and I'm embarrassed and appalled. We owe these women an apology.

* BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On "Lioness" - Comments from a Friend

"Very few things leave me speechless, even temporarily. But I had to absorb the "Lioness" film for a day or two before I could try to articulate my thoughts and feelings about it. None of my initial impressions have changed, only deepened. I am increasingly awed by these women. As I am by any soldier who can function in a hostile and deadly situation. But the Lioness team did this with less training, less support, less mental preparation. That makes them braver and tougher in my book!

By the end of the film, the indignation had changed to outrage and anger. I was working right up to a slow boil. "How COULD they?" was the main idea in my head. Of course I should be used to the way that large organizations work. And soldiers are expected to put their lives on the line. But to ask them to do so without training and preparation is surely inhuman and criminal. In fact it was pointed out time and again that it was, in fact, against regulations to have them in those situations. But none of the people responsible for putting them there seemed willing to go a step further and make sure they had the necessary training. Because that was against the rules. WHAT??? There were far more people than Shannon Morgan's squad leader who needed a kick in the balls!

Evidently the commanders were able to recognize that the Lioness team members were important to these missions, rules or no rules. But they could write that off as something that "just happened". To train them properly would have been a blatant violation of the regs, and none of these leaders were willing to take that step. So they just let these soldiers go into combat situations without the information they needed. I listened to one woman talk about how she had to ask someone in her group how to operate some of the equipment and weapons. Another mentioned that she had not been briefed on the route and would have had no idea how to get back to command post if separated from the others. Impossible to lay all the blame on the commanders in the field, however, when it was clear that right up the chain of command and even to Congress, the People In Charge knew that this was happening.

Yesterday after we got back from a trail ride, I spent some time looking up articles about the Lioness missions and other information about women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, etc. Over and over again it was pointed out that if the military followed the current policy on women in combat, it would seriously compromise their ability to function in some of these areas. Any reasonable person would think that the obvious answer would be to get that policy changed. Obviously women can function very well in combat situations. In fact, you can evidently send them into combat without the preparation necessary for men, and they will do a spectacular job. Also obviously, they are willing to do this for their team, their country. In other words, for us! So... I'm thinking of the phrase "ready, willing, and able". They are willing and MORE than able. The only thing missing is "ready". The only thing missing is the one step that these women can't perform for themselves.

I fear that the underlying misogyny in US culture has a part to play in this. Congressional members said repeatedly that "the American people" do not want women in combat. Why not? I'm an American, and personally I don't want anyone in combat. I agree that it's a horrible idea for a young woman to be shot, blown up, emotionally traumatized, or otherwise mangled in mind and body. Equally horrible to me if it were a young man. On the surface it sounds as if US citizens have a soft, protective attitude toward their women, doesn't it? But that is flatly contradicted by the amount of violent crimes committed against women here. Crimes not only poorly investigated and under-prosecuted, but often shrugged off as regrettable but sort of normal. The indifferent and sexist attitudes of our workplaces, our medical system, our law enforcement, our religious communities, our military, and very often our families, are pretty clear indicators that far from being respectful and protective of our women, we as a society are dismissive of their concerns as well as their contributions. The current policy concerning women in combat is an extension of that. After all, women can already vote, own property, file lawsuits, run corporations, etc. If they can also take part in armed combat, be afforded the same respect that a male soldier deserves, what grounds do we have for considering them the weaker and inferior sex? Well, we wouldn't have. And I think that may be the root of the problem. The American people don't want women in combat. For the most part they also don't want them in law enforcement, NASCAR races, CEO offices or other places traditionally occupied by men. However, if they do manage, against all odds and with far greater challenges than any man faces, to get into these roles, they are afforded a grudging amount of respect. So do we see these Lioness soldiers, taking part in missions alongside soldiers who have better training and better preparation, but still able to make an equal contribution. They aren't getting 1/1000th of the credit they deserve.

At one point in the film, some of the women were watching news clips of missions they had participated in. Over and over you hear the newscasters mention the bravery, skill, heroism of the "men" involved. The look on the women's faces was so painful to watch. They were there too, but they were deliberately, and in my mind cruelly, left out of the "recognition and admiration" part. For what it's worth, they have my wholehearted admiration. And a world of outrage on their behalf."

-- Melissa

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Flanders Fields

Little Rock National CemetaryIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Now playing: SHS_Concert_Choir_-_In_Flanders_Fields
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Women in Combat - "Lioness"

How did a group of female support soldiers-mechanics, supply clerks and engineers-end up fighting alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq war? Find out in Lioness, a film about female combat veterans.

From Meg and Daria, "We are thrilled to announce that Lioness will air nationally this week on Independent Lens/PBS. Most stations will be airing the film on Thursday November 13th at 9 pm but check your local listings as date/time may vary. Please tune in and help us spread the word!

Tuesday is Veterans Day, when we acknowledge those who have served in the military. This year there seems to be a lot of interest in talking about women veterans. We are happy to join this growing national conversation. You can see us on CNN's American Morning tomorrow bright and early. We will also be talking about women veterans and their issues on public radio, including on WBUR's On Point from 10 - 11 am (EST) and on KQED's Forum at 9 am (PST). The women in our film will be featured in a piece on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric on Tuesday evening. Finally, check out our video oped on the New York Times website; it will post Tuesday morning."

Post your thoughts about the film here or you can talk back by going to Also visit the website,, and post a comment.