Wednesday, June 09, 2010

It's Not All Bad

Following is a note from a friend and fellow United States Army Reserve Officer serving in Iraq. He is a Civil Affairs officer working as a liaison between Iraqi officials, contractors, the U.S. Government and a myriad of other agencies and organizations. This is a tough job but I can think of no one better qualified to do it than my friend, "Tijuana" (call sign).

"I can’t believe it is June already. Time is going by very fast.

In the last 30 days I have started to get to know my job fairly well. We have processes in place when dealing with the Provincial Governor’s Team (with action item lists). I have a reconstruction engineering team that works to ensure we spend Iraqi money before we spend US Government money. I have met quite a few mayors, deputy mayors, muktars, sheikh’s and other leaders in these communities. I feel like we are engaging at the right level to make a difference. In our spare time, we recommend projects and help with local businesses like setting up internet cafĂ©’s for profit, bridal shops, sewing associations that benefit widows and a few others that are in-work. I am currently the project manager for 28 projects worth over $600k (some Iraqi funded, some US funded).

The work is rewarding and very time consuming. I have spent the last week at our Tal Afar branch office sitting in for the Team Leader while he is on vacation. Being integrated so closely with the district and sub-district governments really adds flexibility and being able to propose new ideas quickly. The good always comes with the bad, I was stuck out at a checkpoint on the Syrian border in very austere conditions for a night trying to get back to our branch office yesterday so I am just now catching up on my workload.

Things are moving fast and the drawdown is happening all around me. Mid-tour leave will be here in less than 3-months – can’t wait. "

-- Tijuana

It's great to hear news from someone with "boots on the ground," particularly when it is positive. It is far too easy to get sucked in by all the sensationalism that is on network television and in print media. Dispatchs such as this give us reason for hope and optimism.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Technicality Generation

Op-Ed Contributor
Published: May 18, 2010

THE problems faced by Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, over his depiction of his military service are indicative of a broader disease in our society. The issues of integrity in business and politics that plague us today — the way elites are no longer trusted — are rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft.

The Vietnam War drove members of my generation in different directions. Some served because they believed in the war, others didn’t believe in the war and protested, but when drafted felt an obligation to go. Others were simply drafted. Some refused service out of principle, others out of fear, and still others because they felt that taking the time to go to Vietnam would slow their careers.

Many of those who didn’t serve were helped by an inherently unfair draft. I don’t fault anyone for taking advantage of the law. Where I do find fault is among those who say they were avoiding the draft because they were idealistically opposed to the war — when, in fact, they mostly didn’t want to make the sacrifice. The problem is that for every person who won a deferment or a spot in a special National Guard unit, someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve.

Thus, many in my generation knew they were using a broken (but legal) system to shirk their duty. They cloaked themselves in idealism but deep down had to know they were engaging in a charade. (I, too, was against the Vietnam war and felt that people should protest, but not dodge their draft responsibility.)

Saturday, June 05, 2010